A fair go – the right to say ‘no’: Phil Laird reports


Coal seam gas wells near Tara, in Queensland (Photo courtesy Moira McDade)

Coal seam gas wells near Tara, in Queensland (Photo courtesy Moira McDade)

By Phil Laird

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.

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  1. Hilde Rombout says

    I could not agree with you more. We should have a right to say NO. And the idea of having committed communities working for what they want is just excellent. I wonder if anyone can give us some tips of how to start a community “evolution”, you know, what strategies to us etc. My own community in Gippsland is also under threat of CSG invasions and as i am relatively new to the area i am not sure how to start getting the community involved in saying NO to mining on our land. Thank you Phil for your excellent article.

    • Hi Hilde – You’ll be pleased to hear that the Gasfield Free Community initiative is running strong in Gippsland. To know how to get involved contact Ursula 0499 991 324,csgfreepoowong@hotmail.com. Explore the Victoria page of the Lock The Gate website http://www.lockthegate.org.au/victoria for a list of Gippsland groups.

      In addition to vibrant local groups, it really helps if people are part of a strong national alliance…you can do this easily by joining Lock The Gate Alliance http://www.lockthegate.org.au/join.

      If others out there are keen to initiate the community strategy that Phil describes, contact your regional Lock The Gate coordinator. If you don’t know who they are, contact me communities@lockthegate.org.au, best wishes, Annie Kia (LTG Community Mobilisation Coordinator)

  2. Thanks for this. The lack of analytical reporting by the MSM underscores the import of articles such as this.

    While the Abbott regime pretends to protect Australia’s sovereignty from a few boat people,our land is wide open for exploitation -wide open for deals which do not consider our small businesses, our farmers, our right to breath untainted air and drink in safety our water.

    The deals government is making where it leaves itself open to litigation, should a proposed operation fail is simply appalling – we are truly a corporate state and government mere window dressing.

  3. Dear Mr Schaefer

    Thank you for your email of 13 November 2013 concerning proposed changes to the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment Bill 2013. I have taken your concerns and comments on board and provided this to the NSW Government for consideration.

    Unfortunately I am unable to provide you with any details of the Government’s proposed changes to the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment Bill 2013 and the Code of Practice for Land Access as no announcement has yet been made by the Government.

    Jock Laurie | Land and Water Commissioner
    NSW Trade & Investment

    Locked Bag 21 | Orange NSW 2800
    T: 02 6391 3429 | F: 02 6391 3551 | E: commissioner@landandwater.nsw.gov.au
    W: http://www.trade.nsw.gov.au