Same state, different rules: Penny Blatchford @NoCSGGurley asks why some people in NSW get special treatment?

NSW Government media release - protecting some families, not others

NSW Government media release – protecting some families, not others

By Penny Blatchford

Most Australians enjoy the freedom to make choices about their lives – whom we marry, if we will have children, where we live and where we work. It would seem for people like me who choose to marry a farmer, have a family, live on the farm and make that farm our primary business, our freedom to continue to choose our life is being taken away.

Governments across Australia, without any sense of balance or democracy, are choosing to turn our countryside , including our wilderness and our farms into a nationwide industrial gasfield.

On 3 October 2013, the NSW government continued to make choices on our behalf by protecting selected people within our communities – and not others. NSW Minister for Industry and Infrastructure, The Hon. Brad Hazzard, proudly announced this in his ‘peace of mind’ media release.

In NSW, communities offered this special status are those who choose to live in areas zoned residential, and those whose farms fall into two industry categories in a specific location: equine and viticulture in the Hunter Valley.

Communities who do not hold this special status are those who live on farms outside residential zones and communities that have existing CSG activity already approved, such as the Gloucester Valley.

The government estimates 95% of dwellings will be protected by exclusion zones.

Unfortunately, I am one of the families that falls within the 5% – and I think the logic of exclusion is upside down. As a result of our exclusion we are the ones who can be categorised as having ‘no peace of mind’.

Whilst researching the 2013 Mining SEPP amendments and the NSW Government’s choice not to protect rural homes and residences from industrial gasfield production, I came across the draft regulations for wind farms.

On 19 January, 2012, The Land newspaper reported Minister Hazzard as saying, in relation to the draft guidelines for wind farms,  that they had ‘struck a balance between encouraging investment and ensuring communities were protected from the impacts of wind farm developments’. Public comment on this draft closed 14 March, 2013.

According to this report, Mr Hazzard said a central feature of the draft guidelines was a rigorous gateway assessment for wind farms where proposed turbines were located within two kilometres of existing residences.

Without written consent from every resident within two kilometres of a proposed wind turbine, the ‘gateway process’ would be triggered – meaning  the wind farm operator must lodge an application to a Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) addressing concerns about noise, visual impact, any impact on land values, as well as other issues, Mr Hazzard said.

On 23 December, 2011 Minister Hazzard issued a media release headlined: NSW Government puts community consultation at centre of new wind farm guidelines.

The Newcastle Herald the same day quoted Minister Hazzard  as saying: “Today I am announcing that the NSW Coalition is putting out for public discussion some of the toughest wind-farm guidelines in the country, possibly the world.”

And the Sydney Morning Herald, on the same day, carried the headline: NSW gets worlds toughest wind farm rules.

The opening line in this story was ‘people living within two kilometres of proposed wind farms will have the right to veto them, under a NSW government proposal’.

Compare this to coal seam gas – same planning department, same Minister Hazzard, huge public outcry and community concern for homes, families, farms, wilderness, noise, visual impact, impact on land  values, health, water, soils, environment and so on.

Same motherhood catch phrases as ‘tough new rules’ and ‘tough new measures’ according to a government media release issued on 21 March, 2013.

“We have put in place the toughest CSG controls in Australia,” said Minister Hazzard.

“Communities will now have peace of mind with the two kilometre exclusion zone for new CSG activity around residential areas.”

The simple reply to Minister Hazzard is ‘no, not all communities’ and ‘no, not all families’ have ‘peace of mind’.

So if you have a wind farm proposal on your doorstep everyone within the radius of two kilometres must be happy according to Minister Hazzard’s draft guidelines. But if you have a proposal on a rural property for an industrial gas field 200 metres from your principal place of residence and 50 metres from your garden – these tough new measures do not apply.

If you live in rural NSW, if you do not want CSG mining on your doorstep, you have to shut up and put up – or take matters into your own hands by ‘locking the gate’ to deny access  to miners – and run the risk of being taken to forced arbitration, the Land and Environment Court or await the relevant Minister’s ruling.

Sorry, the world’s toughest rules don’t apply to you!

Now, whether you like and support  wind turbines or not, agree with coal seam gas mining or not, surely there should be consistency within the planning department regarding how people are treated in NSW?

Every family and every place of residence in NSW must be afforded  the same right to feel safe in their own homes – and be granted that 2000 metre exclusion zone, regardless of  where we live.

If the toughest rules in the world can be proposed for residences near wind farms, then those same rules should be applied to the toughest rules for homes facing the threat of an industrial gasfield.

The coal seam gas exclusion zones on residential land in NSW came into force on 4 October, 2013. Stage 2 CSG exclusion zones are on exhibition until 8 November, 2013.

Submissions or feedback on the exclusion zones can be made here.

Concerns include:

  • Rural residential land (zone R5 in the standard LEP) and all large lot residential zonings should be added to the CSG exclusion.
  • The 2km buffer should be applied to the critical industry clusters exclusion areas, as well as the residential exclusions.
  • The village exclusions for CSG must apply to the entirety of the villages of Goongerry, Broke and Bulga.
  • The exclusion areas for residential land and critical industry cluster should be extended to coal mining, which should not be permitted in residential zones or critical industry clusters, with a 2km buffer around each.
  • Resource companies should not be able to nominate to exempt land they own from the critical industry clusters: it will defeat the purpose of the protections to create holes in the maps.
  • There is no protection for agricultural land under the Gateway process. The Regulation must be amended to create a strict exclusion to protect agricultural land from mining for coal and gas, and must apply to all projects not determined before the creation of the amended regulations.
  • The new Gateway provisions are contradictory, implying at one point that the Panel will not even have the power to recommend rejection of a mining application.
  • The process to verify biophysical strategic agricultural land is at the discretion of the Director-General of the Department of Planning, who only needs to “have regard to” the verification criteria.There should not be any discretion to remove land from the map if it meets the criteria
  • There is still no protection for water catchments and aquifers from coal mining and gas extraction. The next step should be the introduction of exclusion zones to protect surface water and groundwater resources from CSG and coal mining.

More information

The Mining State Environmental Planning Policy and Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 was amended on 4 October. You can see the Gateway amendment to the EP&A Regulation here.

The changes that have already been made to the Mining SEPP creating the CSG exclusions can be seen here.

The additional changes, proposing to expand the exclusion zones to seven villages and to identified residential growth areas, can be found here.

You can see maps of the growth areas proposed for protection in your local area here.

The Department of Trade and Investment has provided an’opt-out’ form for resource companies that own land in a critical industry cluster and want it cut out of the map before it’s finalised.

The government’s summaries and Q&A sheets are available here.

Summary of major problems with the new policies:

  • The CSG exclusion zones do not apply to all residential land. Land zoned R5 ‘Large lot residential’ is not included.
  • There is an exclusion zone for critical industry clusters, viticultural and equine, but these do not get a 2km buffer.
  • The CSG exclusions don’t apply to projects that have already been approved, like the Gloucester gas project.
  • There is no exclusion of mining from agricultural lands in the new regulations. The Gateway Panel’s advice and any recommendations they make do not need to be acted upon by consent authorities.
  • Alarmingly, government is specifically calling on mining and CSG companies that owned land before 10 September 2012 that is identified as being part of a critical industry cluster to nominate their land to ‘opt-out’ of the map before it is finalised, which would exempt that land from the CSG exclusion.
  • The new Gateway process does not apply to lands already subject to mining leases, so there may be no protection for agricultural land from mine extensions and it doesn’t apply to projects that had their Director General’s Requirements issued prior to 10 September 2012, which is the case for several coal projects that now threaten land and water, like Drayton South.
  • It does not appear that applications for Gateway certificates can be rejected. The new section 17H of the Mining SEPP says the Gateway Panel ‘must determine an application by issuing a gateway certificate in accordance with this Division’. Section 17J (3) (a) says that in the event that a proponent fails to provide further information requested by the Panel, they can ‘reject and not determine the application’ but this is not consistent with section 17H.
  • If the Gateway Panel runs out of time for their assessment, a certificate with no conditions attached will be automatically issued.
  • The Director-General of planning will be the one that determines verification certificates for biophysical strategic agricultural land, not an authority with any experience of agriculture or any independence from the assessment process.
  • They will do this using the ‘verification criteria’ which you can see here. The Director-General only needs to “have regard to” the verification criteria, so the decision about whether land really is strategic agricultural land is discretionary.
  • The problem of mining in groundwater aquifers that supply agricultural production, and under catchment areas for major drinking water supplies like the Central Coast and Sydney has not been dealt with at all.



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  1. Victoria Hamilton says

    Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
    This writing is brilliant,apt,all true and in a nutshell, in the history books to come, will be read and hailed as Australian Agricultures finest democratic moment. Thankyou Penny Blatchford.

  2. Gary Smith says

    Well all I can say is that Barry O’Farrell seems to have suddenly “grown some” since the Abbott Government got elected and feels safe in doing whatever he pleases and is a direct result of the NSW electorate giving him virtually a “dictatorial” democratic power by wiping out Labor ( or any other party for that matter) and leaving us with an opposition which cant be everywhere to fight back. A lesson we should have seen in QLD where the same thing happened and the QLD government can and do whatever they like.
    As to Gas and wind power, well of course Gas and coal get the priority as they give the government the most revenue and as we have seen the LNP, State or federal, don’t believe in Human climate change so they have Carte Blanche in giving away as many licences as they like regardless of the carbon and methane emissions of fracking, methane being the worst Greenhouse gas and fracking releases more than all the cattle on the planet. Who cares is the LNP’s mantra. Wind power after all gives us virtually free energy and that takes power away from using gas and coal so why wouldn’t they make it as hard as possible to build wind farms. Anyone stupid enough to believe in any problematic “health” concerns about wind turbines is the same as the people who don’t believe in climate change. If anything there are more dangers in High voltage power cables stretched across the country than ANY proven problems with Wind Power of which there are none to my knowledge.

    Lets face it, until the LNP are thrown out of Government everywhere there will be a ” who cares ” attitude to the future of coal and gas and they will dig, drill, mine every bit they can, while they can, purely out of greed with NO consideration of their own children or grand children which to me is appalling and akin to a “future” child abuse.
    Its almost as if the governments are in a ” make as much as we can” philosophy ” and stuff the planet and its just GREED.If anyone believes that gas will make energy bills cheaper, they have a hard lesson to learn, but unfortunately they are going to take the rest of us with them.
    Gary Smith

  3. Sally Kennedy says

    Thank you for taking the time to put this in writing. It is so important for people to have access to this detailed information.

  4. Great article Penny. I’m with the 5%!!

  5. Brilliant analysis of the state of CSG play in NSW. Thanks for spelling it out so clearly, and for the succinct summary of the key problems with the new policies, Penny

  6. Katherine Marchment says

    Brilliant and Horrific – Thanks for the references – I will be writing to relevant Govt Departments and following this up. I happily lived for a year in a bush camp with no gas, no electricity, no TV, no running water and got very fit and healthy taking care of my essential needs each day so people CAN do without ‘essentials’ like gas and electricity. Without access to drinking water though I would have been dead within days. I simply can’t believe the stupidity of these polluticians, endangering our water and food supplies and how disconnected from the fact that they eat drink and shit like the rest of us.

  7. I feel like Bridget Jones today from her third novel Mad about the Boy – checking my BLOG, emails, twitter & facebook. Thanks for all the fantastic comments and support (thumbsup) for my Opinion piece.

  8. Wonderful piece Penny. Thank you.

  9. Ken Gillett says

    Yes, of course all you say is true, but what about the areas of native vegetation that still provide some,if very little, habitat for what has not yet become extinct of our remnant flora and fauna ? The agricultural land has already been degraded through erosion, leaching and chemical poisoning.and should be therefore be of secondary importance when compared to pristine forest or woodland.

    • Dear Ken,
      You may be interested in the details below with respect to protecting the Pilliga Forest (pristine forest/woodland) near Narrabri in north west NSW from becoming an industrial gas field. Details below thanks to The Wilderness Society Newcastle.

      With the recent Federal Approval of 18 new exploration wells in the Pilliga Forest, Santos has moved in bulldozers to clear the well pads and two new drill rigs into the Pilliga Forest. Last week over 35 local residents and Gomeroi Traditional Owners met together in the Pilliga Forest to plan their opposition to these developments. These residents from Narrabri, Coonabarabran, Pilliga, Gunnedah and Coonamble (towns that surround the Pilliga) established a Cultural Heritage Camp in the Pilliga Forest and are determined to protect the Pilliga from destructive coal seam gas.

      Santos also have an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) lodged with the Department of Planning and we only have 6 days left to object! These two coal seam gas wells, Bibblewindi 31 and 32, are the first of Santos’ exploration proposals to go to the Planning Department and trigger a full EIS. Please write a submission to let them know that the Pilliga Forest is a national icon and no place for a coal seam gas field.

      This is just the tip of the iceberg for Santos plans in north-west NSW – once they are entrenched in the Pilliga they intend to spread out across the entire region. The Director General has asked Santos to include any future proposed developments in this EIS, however they have failed to do so. Santos must come clean!

      Submissions are due by next Thursday the 7th of November.

      Submission Guide for Santos EIS – Bibblewindi Gas Exploration Pilot Expansion SSD 13_5934


      GENERAL REQUIREMENTS – Despite the Director General requiring Santos to state “the likely interactions between the development and existing, approved and proposed gas exploration and production” Santos have not yet come clean with their future developments in the area.

      WATER – The Pilliga Forest is an important recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin. The Director General requires baseline monitoring, however there is still no baseline water study completed for the Pilliga groundwater systems. The aquifer monitoring bores required to do this have not even been constructed.

      In addition, the cumulative water model used by Santos lacks the basic data required to assess the impacts of drilling for coal seam gas on groundwater in the future. There must be thorough sampling and testing across the project area to enable modelling of regional groundwater flows and a comprehensive assessment of Groundwater Dependant Ecosystems in the Pilliga region including the potential impacts any groundwater drawdown or contamination may have.

      These two Bohena wells are part of an exploration program that involves the multi-lateral drilling. The drilling through the casing of wells poses a risk to the Great Artesian Basin and other aquifers as it is very difficult, if not impossible, to seal the junction between the casing and the lateral.

      BIODIVERSITY – Santos have admitted that their CSG exploration will destroy habitat for the Pilliga Mouse. The breeding status and population dynamics of the threatened species in the Pilliga are very poorly understood. There must be baseline ecological surveys to assess the population dynamics and status of the Pilliga Mouse, Eastern Pygmy Possum and Barking Owl.

      AIR QUALITY – Another requirement is to assess the risk of fugitive emissions on environmental and human health. The baseline atmospheric methane data collection against which to assess any future potential fugitive emissions and Independent Health Impact Assessment of north-west NSW to establish baseline health data and air quality information has not yet been conducted.

      HAZARDS – The Pilliga is highly susceptible to fires, largely due to the high incidence of ironstone attracting lightning strikes. It is not unusual for the Rural Fire Service to record up to 1000 over a 24 hour period in the Pilliga region. Santos does not appear to have a clear bushfire strategy, especially for gas flaring which cannot be shut down on catastrophic fire days.

      CONSULTATION – It is extremely disappointing that Aboriginal Heritage requirements for were taken out of the Director General Requirements. There is a Native Title claim over the project area and Santos must include the Gomeroi Native Title Claimants, Gomeroi Traditional Owners of the Pilliga and the Narrabri Local Aboriginal Land Council in their consultation.

      • Yes Hi Penny,
        Thank you for this informative Reply, I am aware of the circumstances you enumerate as I am an environmental scientist, which is why I am terrified by the off-hand pursuit of dollars By government and industry ( and of course the indiscriminate investment of mums and dads superannuation funds that generally fund this budding holocaust) I don’t believe that these perpetrators of genocide against their children and grandchildren, have any idea of the effect their action /inaction will have.
        I was raised with the axiom, as it is in law , that ignorance is NO excuse, however the history of this continent makes no sense, at all, unless ignorance and stupidity are acknowledged as prime factors in the destruction of this nation that has had unbounded support from successive governments and if total destruction of this wonderful continent is their aim ,they couldn’t have been more successful.
        Unfortunately it is also a fact that,in NSW the largest holder of CSG leases is the Aboriginal Land Council, may they all rot in hell !

  10. Julie Lyford says

    Well done Penny…….they cannot stop the voices. They cannot stop the conversations. They are so worried about their seats next election………keep speaking and putting the facts on the table for all to see. In the future everyone will know who to point the finger at, who will be responsible for the damage and health issues……….they have no idea just how big the democratic uprising is and we will make sure that all this injustice, greed and destruction of our environment and social cohesion of our communities is documented. It is time for the whistle blowers in govt departments to get the courage to speak up.
    Lock The Gate are champions. Lock The Gate are ordinary citizens. Lock The Gate are you and me, our neighbours and our friends.
    Keep up the great work Penny. Always know you have the support of Gloucester.

  11. How mining a fossil fuel can trump maintaining arable land and the environment in general beggars belief!

    I have voted Greens for the past 20 years – I see no reason to change.

    History will judge the LNP to be the lunatics they are – I just hope to be alive to see it.

  12. Penny Blatchford says

    Prime Minister Abbott visited Debbi Orr from Tara on the weekend.
    The article implies Mr Abbott thinks csg wells should not be near residents.

  13. I Live on Farm Not Protected by #CSG Exclusion – I’m Fracked
    Great Article by @NoCSGGurley
    #CSG #NSWpol #AusPol

  14. Same state, different CSG rules: Penny Blatchford @NoCSGGurley asks why some people get special treatment?