Action needed on land conflict

Farmer blockades of mining trucks will escalate unless real action is taken to resolve land and water use conflict, NSW Farmers warns.

On Saturday police were called to a state forest near Gunnedah after more than 60 farmers blockaded Santos trucks amid a dispute over potential water extraction and fracking. Local communities feared the Sub-Artesian Basin and aquifers could be forever polluted if coal seam gas projects went ahead, and saw no option but to take action after the NSW Government renewed a petroleum exploration licence in the area.

NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said this sort of conflict was likely to escalate if decision-makers remained “out of touch” with communities.

“There is a growing disconnect between the people making these poor decisions about regional communities and those who actually live there,” Mr Martin said.

“We called for an independent Agriculture Commissioner at the last election to try and head off these sorts of conflicts, but sadly we’re four years down the track and the conflicts are growing.

“It is absolutely clear that there is an increasing problem here, and we are calling on all sides of politics to really prioritise this matter before the March 25 election.”

Following the 2019 state election the NSW Government appointed Daryl Quinlivan as Agriculture Commissioner within the Department of Primary Industries. While he had written two reports for the NSW Government, the rising number of transmission and energy installations and ‘state significant projects’ signed off by Ministers were seen by many as proof the planning system was broken. Mr Martin said NSW Farmers members were of the belief that without true independence and resources to call out poor planning decisions or policies, the Agriculture Commissioner would continue to be ineffective.

“People are very impressed with Mr Quinlivan’s knowledge when they hear him speak, but his advice must translate to better outcomes,” Mr Martin said.

“We are calling for a statutory Agriculture Commission with oversight of productivity, agricultural land use, and natural resource management to urgently get the state’s planning system fit for purpose.

“An effective planning strategy balancing agricultural production with a growing list of other land uses will not only help prevent the conflict we saw at the weekend, it will be the most important legacy any state government can leave for agriculture and our nation’s food security.”

/Public Release. View in full here.