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Nationals split on CSG rules

One of many recent CSG protest rallies, in this case about 100 people turned out at Tuncester hall.
One of many recent CSG protest rallies, in this case about 100 people turned out at Tuncester hall. Doug Eaton

NSW Nationals are calling on the Government to toughen up its draft Strategic Land Use Policy because it does not meet the party's expectations.

The call signals a split between the Parliamentary wing of the NSW Nationals and its NSW Sate branch.

However, Ballina MP Don Page yesterday denied a split, but admitted there were differences of opinion within the party about the policy.

"We recognise there are issues (relating to the policy) which need to be addressed," Mr Page said.

He said the Nationals parliamentary party would discuss the issues raised by the NSW State branch of the party and would make no comment until then.

On Friday, the State branch announced its Central Council Natural Resources and Energy Policy Committee had made a submission to the public consultation on the draft policy to protect water sources and high-quality agricultural land.

The submission said there were areas of the draft policy which did not meet the expectation generated by the government before last year's election.

Deputy Premier and Nationals parliamentary leader Andrew Stoner told the media "in-house debate" was normal, but the parliamentary party supported the Government's land-use policy.

Lismore MP Thomas George has previously said he supported the NSW Government's draft proposal 100%. The Northern Star attempted to contact Mr George yesterday but could not.

The State branch's submission calls for quarantining of strategic agricultural lands permanently from mining and extraction. Land in this category would be protected from mining to "the centre of the earth".

The submission also says a new category of lands - highly productive lands - should be added to the policy.

Landholders should also have the capacity to challenge or appeal the determination under which their land has been categorised.

The submission calls for a tougher aquifer policy which would include all activities undertaken by mining and the CSG industry which had the potential to interfere with aquifers.

It also says the North Coast should be included in the list of regions to have a strategic regional land use plan.

The submission outlines a more rigorous planning process that puts the onus on mining and exploration companies to prove their activities won't harm farmland.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Boudicca Cerese said the Nationals' recommendations were a definite improvement on "Brad Hazzard's land-use strategy" and appeared to address some of the concerns of rural communities about the draft land use plans.

"However, they still fail to address the call for local communities and landholders to be able to say 'No' to mining and petroleum exploration or production and they offer no protection to high value public lands and natural areas critical to maintaining the State's biodiversity," she said.

"Local communities in the Northern Rivers are emphatically saying 'No' to any CSG extraction in the region and they expect our Nationals MPs to represent them in this demand."

Topics:  coal seam gas, csg, don page




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