Acting upon their election pledge, the NSW State government released its draft strategic land use policy early March. The policy attempts to balance the rights of farmers, mining and coal seam gas industries and environmental groups on or within two kilometres of strategic agricultural land, but has received criticism from all sides.
Major mining and coal seam gas proposals will now have to pass through a ‘gateway process’ where their proposal will be evaluated by an independent, scientific panel. Proposals that haven’t received a gateway certificate will not be able to proceed lodgement of a development application. Proposals will be assessed according to one of two criteria, depending on the type of strategic land.
Biophysical strategic land will be subject to an assessment of the impact on agricultural productivity. In regions known as critical industry clusters, proposals will be assessed according to the impact they have on agricultural resources, support services, infrastructure, transport routes and loss of scenic and landscape values. Presently, only two critical industry clusters have been identified, the equine cluster around Scone, Denam and Bylong and the viticulture cluster around Broke and Pokolbin, however, more critical industry clusters may be identified.
Along with this policy, the government has also introduced an Aquifer Interference Policy and Coal Seam Gas Code of Practice which seek to further limit the ability for Mining and Coal Seam Gas Developments to go forward.