THE NSW government has released a code of practice which regulates how coal seam gas (CSG) companies negotiate access to private land.
The code is contained in amendments to the Petroleum Onshore Bill which was introduced to Parliament this week.
The Bill also guarantees that during arbitration landholders can access legal representation and that “reasonable” legal costs are covered by the CSG company.
Stakeholder talks have been held over the last six months to develop the code.
The talks were facilitated by NSW Land and Water Commissioner Jock Laurie.
NSW Irrigators, Cotton Australia and NSW Farmers Association, CSG industry body APPEA and government representatives were amongst the representatives.
Prominent shock-jock Alan Jones accused farmer groups of “breaking bread” with the gas industry and engaging in a “clandestine” process with Mr Laurie.
Farmer groups were also criticised by crossbench Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Brown for failing to “give the farmer the right to lock the gate” on CSG.
The Shooters party won’t support the Bill when it comes to a vote next year unless there are changes, Mr Brown said.
However, NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson said the code would be a positive outcome and described stakeholder talks as “an opportunity to be constructive and help develop solutions in favour of our landholders”.
“At the end of the day, you can’t influence outcomes if you aren’t involved in the process,” Ms Simson said.
“We make no apologies for being at the table and fiercely lobbying for outcomes that are in the best interests of our members.”
Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham criticised the government for limiting the public consultation to the code of practice, as opposed to the wider amendments contained in the Bill, and said it would not reduce the industry’s impact on farmland.
“We are concerned that only the draft Code of Practice has been put out to public consultation, while crucial amendments to the Petroleum Act have no formal consultation process. This is an exercise in distraction.”
“Without granting the power to landholders to veto exploration on mining on their land, this Code of Practice is simply a recipe for the CSG industry to force its way onto farmland around NSW,” Mr Buckingham said.
Resources Minister Chris Hartcher wants public feedback on the code which is now on public display.
“It is important that community concerns about potential impacts are addressed and clear standards are established,” he said.