The NSW Government finally made a move last week on the zombie Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) issue, an issue that has been hanging over the heads of a number of rural communities in the north and north west parts of NSW, for some time now.
We were bitterly disappointed that key areas of these dormant PELs will remain, however.
We have called this approach inconsistent, and we believe it risks making the situation of uncertainty worse, for many people and for many businesses, including food and fibre producing businesses.
The 'Future of Gas Statement' is supposed to highlight the importance of relinquishing un-used future rights to gas exploration.
But by excluding areas around the Narrabri Gas Project, the NSW Government has not only demonstrated a failure to genuinely address the crux of the zombie PEL issue, it has effectively vindicated the people living in the Narrabri region's concerns of an infinitely large gas field covering a huge portion of their region and impacting a significant amount of people, a project far greater than what has been initially approved.
In May the CWA of NSW supported calls for extinguishment of all zombie PELs, especially considering these PELs were covering valuable and highly productive agricultural land.
We believe that by extinguishing PELs and changing the approach to how PELs are permitted to exist, could restore confidence for people living and working in rural areas.
By allowing seemingly perpetual licenses to continue, the NSW Government want their cake and to eat it too.
You cannot expect people to continue to carry on producing world class food, to plan and develop agricultural businesses, to invest in vibrant and healthy rural communities with long term sustainability prospects, with this constant threat in existence.
It must come to a point where rural people, long term viability of rural communities, and agricultural production is prioritised and valued.
Not to mention the community impact. We are concerned about the wellbeing and mental health of the residents in these areas that are dedicating significant time and resources to protect their community, their families and their businesses.
We do recognise the relief that many people will be feeling with the extinguishment of the PELs announced last week, and we do urge the NSW Government to rethink their selective approach in this regard. The issue is far from resolved.
- Danica Leys is the CEO for the Country Women's Association of NSW
Love agricultural news? Sign up for The Land's free daily newsletter