Farmers will fight to retain their land

Newcastle Herald
17th Feb 2011

GLOUCESTER farmers have vowed to fight to save one of the state’s last remaining repositories of prime agricultural land from being swallowed by mining.

Dozens of concerned farmers and community representatives will meet at a NSW Farmers Association mining taskforce meeting in the town today to discuss how mining and farming can coexist.

It follows a call from the association last October for a moratorium on new mining and coal seam gas development across the state.

The Gloucester Valley has been one of the state’s richest agricultural resources for the best the part of 200 years. But in recent years the area’s land and water reserves have been under increasing pressure from the rapidly growing mining and resources sectors.

NSW Farmers Association Stroud branch president, Doyne Lanham, said it was essential that prime agricultural land in areas such as the Gloucester Valley and the Liverpool Plains be protected for future generations.

“There’s a lot of feeling in the community at the moment; there is the possibility of 100 (gas) wells between Gloucester and Stratford,” he said.

He said the continued expansion of mining activities was threatening the viability of some farmland.

“We are not opposed to mining,” he said. “We are happy for them to operate within the rules that were set down but they just push, push, push all the time.”

Today’s meeting will also hear from Port Stephens oyster growers who are concerned about the potential impact of mine water runoff into Mammy Johnsons Creek, which eventually empties into Port Stephens.

State election candidates will also address the meeting.

NSW Farmers Association mining taskforce chairwoman Fiona Simson said many landholders were concerned about the future of agriculture in NSW.

“A lot of people are very concerned about what they are seeing going on around them and there’s a feeling that they want more information,” Ms Simson said.

“I’m hoping people will come to the meeting with questions and ideas about where we are going in the future.”

Ms Simson said the Coalition’s land use policy had been generally well received by farmers.

“It’s certainly talking about some agricultural productivity assessment and about giving regional people input into the process,” she said.

“We are also pleased to see there’s a focus on water and the importance of agricultural land on a triple bottom line.”

Invitations were extended to gas and coalmining industries working the area to attend today’s meeting, but they have indicated they would not be attending.

A NSW Minerals Council spokesman said the council had met recently with Gloucester Shire Council to hear about some of the challenges for the council and the local community.

“The NSW Minerals Council supports a strategic approach to regional land use planning, which should help to address concerns about land use conflicts and exploration,” he said.

“The government is attempting to address these issues through its coal and gas strategy and the Opposition through its Strategic Regional Land Use Policy.”

“It is unfair to expect that one policy document will be the cure-all for questions about competing land use, but we are pleased that both sides of government are heading in the right direction.”

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