The NSW government has ruled landholders can't lock the
gates to coal seam gas miners, clearing the way for drilling and
fracking right across the State.
In the final version of the controversial Strategic Land Use
Policy announced by Premier Barry O'Farrell, no land is
quarantined from gas exploration or mining applications.
Former head of the Law Society and chairman of Stacks/The Law
Firm, Maurie Stack OAM, said the announcement means landowners have
no right to stop the miners no matter how valuable their land is to
agricultural production or conservation.
"The cry from the vast majority of people, and in
particular those in the north of NSW where I live, to 'lock the
gates' have counted for nothing," Mr Stack said.
"When mining takes place on private property there are two
winners and one loser. The mining company gets profits and the
government gets royalties. The loser is the landowner left with the
mess on the surface and the risk of damage to the water aquifer
The new policy expands the amount of land classified as
"strategic agricultural land" which will be subject to a
new "Gateway" process overseen by an independent
The government lifted the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or
'fracking', in which coal seams are smashed to release
trapped gas. This is despite public concerns the process can damage
aquifers and leak methane to the surface.
It will be tougher for a mining company to obtain a licence to
prospect and mine coal seam gas explorations, and conditions
imposed will be more strict.
But once the Minister for Mines has given a mining company
permission to carry out testing or mine on your property, you
can't stop them. They can smash through locked gates.
Mr Stack said it's important for landowners approached by
miners wanting access to their land to get the best deal possible.
Landowners are entitled to compensation for damage on the
land's surface, but not for damage to underground aquifers.
"If you are approached by a miner to access your land you
can and should engage a competent lawyer to advise you in
negotiations for a land access agreement.
"It's free for the landowners. The mining company has
to pay your reasonable legal costs. If you can't reach
agreement it goes to an arbitrator."
But Mr Stack fears landowners' rights will be diminished
even further once the government releases a standard land access
agreement that is currently being negotiated.
"Once a standard agreement has been adopted it will be
harder to convince an arbitrator that anyone should get different
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The article examines the regulation of the oil and gas industry and breaks down the regulatory process state by state.
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