Weeks of rumours that peak industry bodies were providing input into the proposed amendments to the Petroleum (Onshore) Act, regarding access agreements and permits, finally found their way into social media. The Act has had amendments proposed, the most controversial of which are about access to land for petroleum (read: unconventional gas) exploration.
NSW irrigators confirmed on Twitter that the Land and Water Commissioner, Jock Laurie, is in discussions about the development of a draft code for access in order to push forward the NSW Government’s CSG agenda.
Mr Laurie and NSW Farmers are yet to make comment.
In recent times, the community has been mobilising house by house, road by road and community by community. In places as varied as the Northern Rivers, Coonamble and Gloucester, roads and villages are declaring themselves ‘gasfield free’ via a direct grassroots democratic process – a process at odds with closed negotiations between the NSW government and peak agicultural industry groups.
So far, 95% of surveyed landholders have declared themselves gasfield free. The survey process has gone viral, as more and more communities embrace the gasfield free strategy and withdraw the gas industry’s social license to operate.
And it is clear why.
The results of full steam ahead gasfield development in Queensland is a running sore in that state – and it has finally attracted the attention of the Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
During his recent visit to Tara, in Queensland, the Prime Minister acknowledged the health impacts of living in a gasfield and said that nobody should be forced to have a gas well on their property. Mr Abbott can read the tea leaves and the opinion polls: 84% of NSW residents believe that the farmer should have the right to say ‘no’ to unconventional gas.
Only last week, the Victorian Farmers Federation came out strongly, saying that landowners need the right of veto if the power balance in access agreements is to be returned to farmers.
It’s time the NSW Government acknowledged these facts and stopped bullying our regional MPs and peak body representatives.
It is also time for the peak bodies to fully disclose the back room discussions that are currently underway and will impact on the broader community. As shown at the farm level in Queensland, non disclosure agreements are designed to isolate and divide, to disempower so as to ride roughshod over neighbours and the environment in which we all share.
We have articulated the message to unite, to get on the same page. Well, let’s start with this, let’s represent the 95% of people who don’t want this highly invasive unconventional gas industry on their land or road.
All discussions or negotiations should start here.