Tag Archives: Regional Development

Greens say a plan to phase out coal is prudent

MEDIA RELEASE – 11 February 2015

The Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today questioned why the Labor and Liberal Parties were afraid to talk about the future of the thermal coal industry, saying the Greens were the only party willing to grapple with the issue of coal and climate change, and coal’s structural decline after launching the Greens policy for a managed phase out of coal.

“It’s clear that to avoid dangerous climate change we need to phase out thermal coal mining.  The question is will NSW do the prudent thing and have a planned and managed phase out strategy for coal, or will we wait for a chaotic collapse of the industry?” asked Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“Scientists conclude that 95% of NSW coal reserves must stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change – that’s only three years production at current rates.  NSW urgently needs to prepare a strategy to phase out coal and a managed transition to a diversified economy and to provide jobs.

“The Greens call for ‘no new coal mines’ is now moving to a policy of phasing out existing thermal coal mines.  A decade of government failure to have a plan to phase out coal has only made the task more urgent and difficult.

“Neither the Coalition nor Labor are willing to face up to the issue of coal and have an honest conversation with voters.  It is irresponsible to turn a blind eye to this major climate and energy issue and to just hope and pray that there is no collapse down the line.

“Coal is in structural decline as the world shifts energy sources.  Prices are at record lows, many mines are operating at a loss, and the industry is shedding jobs – now less than 20,000 in NSW.

“There will be economic and social consequences of a phase out of coal, but there are also significant and much larger consequences if we ignore the issue.

“Economic analysts around the world are now recognising that all fossil fuel reserves cannot be burnt and some reserves will have to stay in the ground and will be stranded assets.

“The Greens believe it is prudent to draft a phase out strategy for coal that reviews all existing coal mines and takes into account the socio-economic factors of the coal producing regions, balances the impacts and provides direction and assistance to diversify the regional economies into sustainable industries.

“The flip side of phasing out coal is building a large scale renewable energy industry. This will generate considerable employment and economic activity, particularly for regional NSW.

Contact: Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916


NSW Greens policy initiative

A plan to phase out coal and protect the climate


95% of NSW’s coal reserves must remain unburnt to avoid dangerous climate change

Scientists are saying that if we are to avoid dangerous climate change and limit global warming to 2°C throughout the 21st Century then an historic and rapid transition away from fossil fuels is required.

A recent paper published in the journal Nature calculated that in order to have at least a 50% chance of keeping to no more than a 2°C rise in global temperatures, cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 must be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent.  The paper surveyed global fossil fuel reserves and calculated a carbon budget of exactly how much of each reserve can be burnt in order to avoid breaching 2 degrees of global warming.  The study estimates that for Australia 95% of our coal reserves must be left in the ground.

For NSW this means that only a further 575 million tonnes, or just over three years of production at current rates, of the 11.5 billion tonnes of recoverable coal reserves can be mined and burnt if we are to ensure 95% of our reserves remain in the ground.

Coal is already in structural decline with many mines uneconomic at current prices.  A transition away from coal is inevitable, it’s a question of how quickly and how it is managed.

The Greens have a plan for a phase out of existing coal mines.

The Greens plan is to:

  • Set a clear limit on remaining coal mining in NSW in line with what scientists conclude we can extract – less than 600 million tonnes of coal in NSW.
  • Develop a phase out strategy for phasing out coal mining that accounts for, and balances, the socio-economic impacts of the phase out of the industry.
  • Reassess all current coal mining licences and approvals in accordance with remaining coal mining limit, and reduce allocations in line with the phase out strategy.
  • Legislate to ensure that no compensation is payable to coal mining and fossil fuel exploration companies. Investors have been aware of the potential impact of addressing climate change on their industry for many decades.

The Greens’ phase out plan for NSW will include:

  • An end to all coal exports by 2020;
  • A ban on all new coal mines;
  • A ban on all fossil fuel exploration;
  • Timetable a phase out of existing coal mines;
  • A transition package for affected workers and small businesses;
  • A rehabilitation package for affected land and water;
  • Fast-tracking investment in renewable energy to replace fossil-fuel energy and displaced employment from the coal sector;
  • Regional Development plan to provide alternative industries for affected regions.
  • An energy efficiency program to reduce business, household and public sector energy consumption.

Labor, Liberals and Nationals are all wedded to coal

The Baird government has nailed its colours to the mast on coal. The government has approved 1.3 billion tonnes of coal mining (2.5 times the total remaining coal budget) since September 2014.  This includes the enormously controversial Shenhua Watermark coal mine in the heart of the fertile Liverpool Plains.  NSW Farmers Association President Fiona Simson said of the Shenhua approval: “This decision represents a complete policy failure by the NSW Government to protect any of the state’s high value agricultural land and water.”

Premier Mike Baird appeared at NSW Mining dinner and committed to fast-track coal mining approvals.  At the dinner Mr Baird said: “I am tonight drawing a line in the sand on this. NSW must do better and I assure you we will” and Planning Minister Pru Goward then provided ‘directions’ to the Planning Assessment Commission.

While Labor promote their position of a moratorium of coal seam gas, Labor are silent on coal mining – refusing to provide comment to journalists.  As shadow environment minister, Luke Foley was rumoured to be working on a policy to phase out coal, but backed away from it when confronted a few years ago.

A rising tide against coal

Currently in Australian politics there is a collective cognitive dissonance, where two fundamentally contradictory positions are maintained.  The Coalition and Labor state they are committed to reducing emissions to keep global warming under 2 degrees, but at the same time support the continuation and expansion of the coal industry.  These two positions are physically incompatible, regardless of what political spin is applied.

As a society we must honestly face these limits and make a plan to shift our energy production to non-fossil fuel sources.  To pretend we can continue to mine coal indefinitely is dishonest.

Increasing numbers of people are understand that we must rapidly phase out coal to avoid dangerous levels of climate change. Many scientists, have called for a phase out of coal.  Climate scientist, James Hansen the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies wrote in 2009 “coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet”.

Economists are increasingly assessing the risk of fossil fuel reserves becoming stranded assets.  Deutsche Bank Research Haus notes: “To put it plainly, if the currently agreed climate change targets are to be met with any reasonable certainty, over half the proven fossil fuel reserves would have to stay where they are – underground.”

The Greens have been calling for a transition away from coal since at least 2007 when Bob Brown called for a phase out strategy, and the time for action is fast running out.  The next term of government will be critical in preparing a transition plan, or else, failing the climate and our children.  Inaction will cost trillions of dollars globally, up to a 20 per cent reduction in GDP by the end of this century.

Metallurgical coal and thermal coal

The Greens recognise that metallurgical coal (coking coal) is necessary as a feedstock for making steel.  The Greens will work to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions from metallurgical uses of coal are minimised by enforcing world’s best practices in process efficiency; maximising feed-stock recycling; and regulations to require the use of manufactured materials that minimise embodied emissions.

Burning and exporting thermal coal for electricity generation is the main issue and major contributor to emissions and climate change. It is thermal coal that is the focus of this policy.


Greens launch four point plan to renew NSW with regional development

MEDIA RELEASE – 6 February 2015

The Greens NSW regional development spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham has announced the Greens four-point policy to promote focused regional development in NSW, including a Renew Regional NSW Fund levied on coal and mineral royalties and directed towards focused regional development projects aimed at long-term sustainable economic development.

The four points are:

  1. Renew Regional NSW Fund
  2. Support for renewable energy sector
  3. Infrastructure and building critical mass for regional locations
  4. Protect land and water

A levy of an additional 2% on coal royalties and 1% extra on minerals royalties would provide the Renew Regional NSW Fund with over $1 billion over the four year forward estimates period).  It would fund:

  • ·         Energy and water efficiency projects
  • ·         Small-scale renewable energy projects
  • ·         Research and development for sustainable agriculture in a changing climate
  • ·         Marketing and value adding in agricultural sector
  • ·         Waste reduction projects
  • ·         Soil and vegetation conservation projects

The Greens have a serious plan for sustainable economic development for regional NSW that will improve environmental outcomes and avoid the boom and bust cycle of dependence on mining,said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

NSW has great potential for renewable energy and much of this sector would be built and maintained in regional NSW.  Billions are in investment pipeline pipeline waiting for governments to stop hindering the sector and support its potential.

The Renew Regional NSW Fund would direct significant money from the coal and mining sector into long-term sustainable projects that improve the economic and environmental efficiency of agriculture and other industries.

Small to medium sized business are the job generating sector of the economy and this fund will be available for those businesses to improve their productivity, efficiency and sustainability, reduce waste, and find new markets.

Modern technologies such as fibre optic internet should enable many sectors of the economy to operate from regional areas.  The Greens support the rapid roll out of the NBN and other technologies, as well as policies to encourage a critical mass of activity to make regional operations viable. 

The relocation of government departments and agencies, as well as incentives for private business to set up in regional locations, can help provide a viable critical mass of activity and specialisation.

The Greenslong-term vision for NSW is encouraging the relocation to and sustainable economic activity in medium sized cities and towns, connected by high speed broadband and good land and air transport links.

Critical for the future of regional NSW is protecting our previous agricultural land, sensitive environmental areas, and water resources from the threat of mining and gas extraction.  The Greens policy is for responsible mining that only occurs where it will not damage productive agricultural land or spoil water resources.

Clean energy, sustainable agriculture, value adding, manufacturing and the services sector will provide long term economic development for regional NSW,” Mr Buckingham said.

Contact: Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

NSW Greens policy initiative – Four Point Regional Renewal Plan for NSW

A four part plan for reinvigorating and refocusing regional development in NSW.

The Greens believe that regional NSW can flourish economically, transition to a more sustainable basis, and be an attractive, affordable, interesting and prosperous place to live for a growing number of Australians. However, regional NSW needs policies that do more than just facilitate mining. It needs policies that protect and promote sustainable agriculture, a clean energy industry and a diverse range of manufacturing and service industries.

The NSW government’s efforts at regional development have been ad hoc, with a focus on providing infrastructure for the mining industry. Mining has always been a boom and bust industry, often displaces other industries, and is environmentally destructive. It is capital intensive and often employs workers from outside the region on a drive in-drive out or fly in-fly out basis. The NSW government should put in place strategies to broaden the economic base of regional economies, with a focus on long-term sustainable sectors.

Sydney’s extremely high house prices, amenity issues and serious issues with traffic congestion, mean that more and more people are looking to re-locate to regional areas. Regional areas offer affordable housing, clean air, and a great lifestyle. Modern transport and communications technologies mean that people can stay connected while living in regional areas. The major impediment is often employment, which is why government policies to encourage a broad range of sectors to provide employment opportunities in regional areas are critical.

NSW is a large land mass with significant land and water resources. There is huge potential for regional centres to be economic and job hubs that encourage people to relocate. There is no real reason why population has to be so concentrated in Sydney. Europe and the United States have less centralised populations, with many medium sized cities and large towns. This will avoid some major infrastructure problems associated with a major metropolis like Sydney and improve quality of life.

1)   Renew Regional NSW Fund

A levy of an additional 2% on existing royalties on coal and 1% extra on minerals royalties would provide for funding (approximately than $1 billion over the 4 year forward estimates period) to stimulate and transition the regional NSW economy in a focused way. The focus is on making agriculture and other industries more productive, efficient, resilient, and assisting industries in finding new domestic and international markets. This will include funds for:

  • energy and water efficiency projects
  • small-scale renewable energy projects
  • research and development for sustainable agriculture in a changing climate
  • marketing and value adding in agriculture sector
  • waste reduction
  • soil and vegetation conservation projects

2)   Support renewable energy as a key sector for regional NSW

To deal with climate change our society must transition its energy systems from fossil fuels to renewable energy and phase out fossil fuel mining including coal and coal seam gas. The very nature of renewable energy means it is likely to be located in regional areas with good solar or wind resources. Building renewable energy projects will create significant economic activity in both the construction and maintenance phase and fill the economic gap as coal and gas mining is phased out in regional areas. The nature of renewable energy is that it can be located on marginal land, avoiding land use conflict with agriculture.

The Greens support renewable energy through federal policies such as the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and a carbon price. The Greens want to see both unnecessary politically motivated barriers to the development of renewable energy removed from the planning system, and provisions that recognise the importance of renewable energy projects. The Greens will also announce a more detailed plan for transitioning to renewable energy at a later date.

3)   Infrastructure and critical mass for regional locations

The Greens support investment in communications and transport infrastructure and the relocation of government agencies and private businesses to regional locations to provide economic activity and employment opportunities in regional centres. In an increasingly globalised and online world, a quality National Broadband Network will enable businesses and services to operate from regional areas and the Greens strongly support a quality NBN for regional areas. Reliable transport land and air transport are also key.

The Greens also support policies to encourage the relocation of government and private sectors to re-locate to regional areas can provide a critical mass of activity to make regional operations viable and foster areas of specialisation.

The Greens support incentives like YEAH! Local to locate value-adding marketing to the manufacturing and agricultural sector in regional areas and promote these products to markets.

4)   Protect land and water

We must protect productive land and critical water resources from extractive industries. The Greens would legislate protection for productive agricultural land, underground water resources, critical industry clusters – including tourism, and sensitive environmental areas. The Greens would provide local councils and communities with the power to rule out extractive industries in certain areas through their Local Environment Plan and protect their regional identity. The Greens have developed a Responsible Mining Bill to legislate for the protection of critical resources including water, productive agricultural land, forests and biodiversity from extractive industries. This will ensure the economic drivers for regional communities into the future are protected from short term destructive development.


Nationals failing regional NSW with dumb stance on renewable energy

MEDIA RELEASE – 13 January 2015

The Greens NSW regional development spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham called on the National Party to drop their ill-founded opposition to renewable energy saying the drastic drop in renewable energy investment is hurting NSW at a time when mining is shedding jobs and investment.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that investment in renewable energy had plunged 88% in Australia in 2014, largely in response to the hostility of the Abbott government to renewable energy and their policy to reduce the Renewable Energy Target.

“The National Party’s dumb opposition to renewable energy is now harming regional NSW.  Billions of dollars and associated jobs in the renewable energy sector are being lost to the detriment of regional economies,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The National Party needs to put aside its political tactics and ideology and recognise the economic opportunity that the renewable energy sector presents for regional development.

“Perhaps the National Party’s denial of climate science and knee-jerk opposition to clean energy used to seem quaint, but now it is harming regional economies and is a threat to the future of sustainable agriculture.

“The mining sector has gone from boom to bust, with mines being mothballed and workers being sacked.  The renewable energy sector could be providing investment and employment, but instead the government has caused a collapse in investment.

“The Greens support a state-based renewable energy scheme that would kick in if there is any change to the federal Renewable Energy Target, providing security for companies to make investments in the sector.

“Regional NSW could be a powerhouse for clean energy, but right now the National and Liberal Parties are deliberately wrecking the sector for purely political reasons.”

Contact: Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

Greens plan to revive dying Darling River

MEDIA RELEASE – 15 December 2014

The Greens NSW water spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today launched the Greens’ policy in Broken Hill to revive the Darling River, saying it was in a dire state with people all along the Darling River in towns such as Wilcannia, Menindee and Broken Hill suffering as a result.

“The Darling River is dying with horrific consequences for the towns, farms, communities and environment down the river.  This is not just a natural phenomenon, upstream extraction has severely depleted flows to the point where the river’s future is dire,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“The Greens want to revive the Darling River by returning significant amounts of water to it.  Small to medium rain events should be able to make their way downstream and not end up in irrigators’ dams.  The massive Cubbie Station cotton farm in Queensland is the most egregious example of this and the Greens want the NSW Government to seek to purchase Cubbie Station and return up to 500 gigalitres of water back into the Darling River system.

“Today I visited Wilcannia and heard from the Aboriginal community who grew up along the river about just how important the Darling River is to them and their town.  Currently the Darling River is a sand bed at Wilcannia. The government should commit funds to a new weir to provide a weir pool through the town of Wilcannia.

“Rather than put Broken Hill on to bore water, the Greens support minor and long overdue infrastructure changes to the Menindee Lakes System and management that prioritises Broken Hill’s water supply and includes proper local community consultation.

“For too long the Darling River has been over exploited and forgotten by the politicians in Sydney and Canberra.  All political parties should recognise that the Murray Darling Basin Plan has failed to restore the health of the Darling River, and commit to reviving the Darling River and recognising its importance to the communities that rely on it.”

Contact: Max Phillips – 0419 444 916

NSW Greens Darling River Policy Initiative

1) Return water to the Darling River

The Greens want to see significant amounts of water returned to the Darling River. Small and moderate rain events should be allowed to flow into the river and make their way downstream. Too much irrigation and flood diversion works are occurring upstream, with additional water for mining and coal seam gas a new concern. Restoring water volumes to the river is a more sensible way to provide water security for users than expensive engineering schemes.

The NSW Government should seek to purchase Cubbie Station and return a significant amount of water to Darling System. Cubbie Station uses 200 gigalitres of water per year on average, and can use up to 500 gigalitres in a year. Not only does it divert a significant portion of flows in the Culgoa River, but flood diversion works also divert a large area of
catchment into Cubbie Station’s dams.

The Greens support the NSW Government purchasing Cubbie Station and transitioning it away from cotton with water licences being used to return water to the Darling River to ensure flows down the entire length of the river. We believe such a purchase is an economical way to return flows to the river, improve river health and improve water security for downstream users.

2) A downstream weir for Wilcannia in 2015

The Greens want to see a new downstream weir built for Wilcannia in 2015. The current weir is leaking and upstream of town meaning the river through town is very low or non-existent during dry times. A new downstream weir will provide better water quality for residents of Wilcannia, provide for recreation, swimming, fishing and cultural uses, as well as provide an opportunity for small scale horticultural irrigation for local food supply.

There has been a campaign for a new downstream weir in Wilcannia for at least 20 years. The Greens want to have funds committed, not only for feasibility studies, but to actually construct a new weir with an appropriate fish ladder.

3) Improved management of Menindee Lakes and local consultation

The Greens believe Menindee Lakes are a valuable environmental, economic and recreational resource, as well as an important source of water supply for the city of Broken Hill. Management of the Menindee Lakes should be rebalanced to ensure the well-being of the people of Menindee and Broken Hill is prioritised. This means the Murray Darling Basin Authority and Water NSW should factor in the value of the Lakes to the local population and environment, when considering releases for downstream uses – rather than viewing the Lakes as simply a source of water loss through evaporation.

The Greens support more local involvement in the management of the Menindee Lakes System, this should include revising whether water levels in Lake Menindee and Cawndilla are included in threshold calculations and setting a water volume threshold trigger for increased local consultation in the management of the Menindee Lakes System.

4) Support for the ‘We Want Action’ plan

The Greens support the plan drafted by the ‘We Want Action’ group, including raising the height of weir 32, improving the connection between Lake Pamamaroo and Copi Hollo, and investigating the feasibility of extending the current anabranch pipeline to weir 32.

The Greens share concerns that implementing bore water and associated desalination infrastructure will lead to a de-prioritisation of the health of the Menindee Lakes system and Broken Hill’s water supply within the overall management of the Murray-Darling River system. In particular that it will allow increased water allocations upstream on the Darling River, and allow water from the Menindee Lakes System to be used more frequently to fulfil downstream needs, as either replacement for water from the Murray River, or at the expense of the Menindee Lakes System itself.

5) Reverse recent retrograde changes made by the Water Management Act 2014

The Water Management Bill 2014 made significant retrograde changes to water management in NSW that will be to the detriment of the Darling River and its downstream users. These include:

a) excluding post-2004 data from water management calculations – which effectively excludes the Millennium Drought and a changing climate. This means water storages will be emptied more quickly and recklessly, which will create a more dire situation when drought does strike.

b) legalising illegal flood works and granting flood water rights. This means that significant amounts of water will be diverted or continue to be diverted from the Darling River for private use. The effect will mean that small and medium rain events will not make it to the lower Darling.

c) Making supplementary water licences compensable, increasing the potential liability for tax payers, and additional pressure to provide increased allocations to irrigators and other water users.

These changes will lead to less water in the rivers, increased liabilities for taxpayers, and greater allocations of scare resources leaving little for dry periods which are predicted to become more common with climate change. The Greens voted in parliament against these changes and will work for the changes to be repealed.

6) Restoring the buyback of water in the Murray Darling system to at least 2570 gigalitres

Restoring the buyback of water in the Murray Darling system to, at least the original 2750 gigalitres specified in the 2012 Murray Darling Basin Plan, which was subsequently reduced by the NSW Government to 1,500 gigalitres as a condition of NSW signing up to the plan.

Government opposes motion to build the Wilcannia weir

MEDIA RELEASE – 21 November 2014

The Greens NSW water spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today condemned the Baird Government for opposing a motion that called on the government to fund a new weir for the town of Wilcannia, saying they were neglecting the basic needs of people in Outback NSW, particularly Aboriginal communities.

“The Greens moved this motion in parliament to put the issue of the need to build a new weir for Wilcannia downstream of town on the political agenda in Sydney,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“For over ten years successive government have failed to act on the issue of moving the weir, despite the fact the project would make a big difference to the people of Wilcannia.

“The disinterest and neglect of Outback towns such as Wilcannia is demonstrated by the fact the government opposed this motion being passed by formal business yesterday.  The government should state exactly what they found objectionable in the motion?

“The Greens want to see a new downstream weir for Wilcannia built in 2015.  We want justice for the Badrkindji people.   I am going to be on Water Minister Kevin Humphries case from now, until the election and beyond, until we get action on the weir project,” he said.

MOTION: A new weir for Wilcannia

  1. Mr Buckingham to move—
  2. That this House notes that:

(a) life expectancy of males in Wilcannia, New South Wales is 37.5 years, and for women is

42 years of age,

(b) this is a matter of deep shame for our entire community, state and nation,

(c) the worst life expectancy of any nation on earth is Sierra Leone at 42 years of age,

(d) an assured and high quality water supply for the people of Wilcannia and for the

Barkintji people is essential to their health, economic, social, environmental, cultural and

personal wellbeing,

(e) the Darling River adjacent to Wilcannia is an integral part of recreation and fishing

activities for that community,

(f) the town of Wilcannia is now on water restriction and sourcing its water from emergency

water bores, and that this water is intermittent and of very poor quality,

(g) the Wilcannia community has been calling for the construction of a new weir for nearly

40 years,

(h) that the current weir is in a poor condition and located upstream from the town, meaning

that in dry conditions the Darling River is a dry ditch running through the town,

(i) the construction of a new weir, downstream from the town is supported by the Murdi

Paaki Regional Enterprise Corporation, Wilcannia Community Working Party and the

Central Darling Regional Council, and

(j) that a new weir downstream of the town will create a weir pool running through the town

for recreation, drinking, fishing and cultural activities.

  1. That this House calls on the Government to:

(a) immediately begin the process of planning and constructing a new weir in Wilcannia,

(b) immediately consult with the Wilcannia community on the construction of a new weir

and delivery of an assured and quality water supply, and

(c) commit funding for the construction of a new downstream weir to commence as soon as

engineering plans are finalised.

Contact: Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

Video of the motion being put on the notice paper is below

The Greens’ Responsible Mining (Protecting Land, Water and Communities) Bill 2014

Jeremy Buckingham, the NSW Greens spokesperson for Mining and Agriculture has developed legislation to introduce clear no-go zones for mineral and gas exploration, mining and gas production.

The Greens’ Responsible Mining (Protecting Land, Water and Communities) Bill is a response to the demands of the NSW public to bring to an end the failed adaptive management and co-existence strategies of successive Governments that have seen mining and coal seam gas encroach on our agricultural lands, communities, and environment.

Securing agricultural land and water supplies to produce enough high quality food for the Australian and global population requires a clear segregation policy and a precautionary approach to extractive industries that prioritises the protection of food producing land and water.

The Responsible Mining Bill offers a clear alternative to the Coalition Government’s failed Strategic Regional Land Use Policy which ignores the Liberal and National Party’s own election commitment by not implementing protections for those places where mining and other extractive industries simply should not occur.

What is responsible mining?

Mining and other extractive industries access finite, non-renewable resources. While we need many of these resources to support our communities and economy, the extraction and processing has a significant impact on other vital resources including food producing land, clean water, clean air, a safe and healthy environment in which to live, and a stable climate.

Responsible Mining is a model to manage these finite resources as demand for both mineral resources and other natural resources increases. A Responsible Mining approach looks to conserve mineral resources for the long-term benefit of the public while minimising the negative impacts and protecting those natural resources we rely on for survival, like water, air and food producing land.

In 2005 a range of non-government organisations developed a discussion paper titled A Framework for Responsible Mining. The lead chapter was titled: Deciding whether mining is an appropriate landuse. The arguments for the importance of no-go zones are clearly outlined in this paper and no-go zones are seen as a critical step to address the negative impacts of mining on communities.

This legislation would work in conjunction with a number of other Acts and government policies including developing a strategic approach to the location of mining, providing employment and training opportunities, encouraging sustainable mineral use and recycling and ensuring royalties are appropriately and equitably reinvested. The Greens also support the establishment of a cost recovery scheme to pay for environment rehabilitation as well as the regulatory costs of effectively policing the industry.

What will the Bill do?

The Bill establishes a clear and responsible framework for mining by:

Introducing No Go Zones for productive agricultural land, National Parks, state conservation areas, State Forests, biodiversity hot spots, urban areas and drinking water catchments

Legislating a right to say no for both local councils, through their Local Environment Plan, and landholders

Putting a gate in the Mining and Petroleum Gateway so that inappropriate mines can be rejected from the outset by independent experts who will assess significant impacts on:

  1. Climate change
  2. Agricultural land
  3. Critical industry clusters
  4. Water resources
  5. Ecological communities

Establishing an independent, well-resourced Mining and Petroleum Authority which will ensure that all approved mining and petroleum developments meet their ongoing legislative and regulatory requirements and the granting of mining license is free from corruption.

Restoring the Public Interest Test so that existing licenses to be cancelled by the minister if it is in the public interest, such as where there is significant public opposition, concern for the environment or corruption.

The Bill also makes a number of important amendments to the Mining Act 1992 and the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, including fixing up access agreements, preventing conflicts of interest for decision makers, improving environmental protections, mandating audits of petroleum licence compliance and introducing strong penalties for late or incorrect payment of royalties.

You can see the full text of the Bill introduced to Parliament here


Bill introduced, and read a first time and ordered to be printed on motion by Mr Jeremy Buckingham.

Second Reading

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM [11.13 a.m.]: I move:

      • That this bill be now read a second time.

Since becoming a member of the Legislative Council, my office and I have been working with people in the community to introduce the Responsible Mining (Protecting Land, Water and Communities) Bill 2014. I am very proud of this bill.

New South Wales is currently suffering a death by a thousand cuts when it comes to exploration, mining and gas production. Currently there is not a single place in New South Wales a person can move to and be guaranteed that they will not be subject to mineral exploration, mining or gas development.

There are no guarantees that our productive agricultural land, our water resources or our precious natural resources will be protected from the cumulative effect of project expansions, new greenfield developments, and the layering of coal seam gas development next to coalmines. Left unchecked, we have seen mining industries dominate landscapes, communities and the environment. The Government proudly projects a massive expansion in mining over the next decade and has proclaimed its intentions to develop a coal seam gas industry in this State. It is therefore not surprising that the New South Wales community feels under siege by mining and gas exploration and development. This bill is a response to the demands of the New South Wales public to bring to an end the failed adaptive management and co-existence strategies of successive governments, which have seen mining and coal seam gas encroach on our agricultural lands, communities and environment.

Securing agricultural land and water supplies to produce enough high-quality food for the Australian and global population requires a clear segregation policy and a precautionary approach to extractive industries that prioritises the protection of food producing land and water. This bill offers a clear alternative to the Coalition Government’s failed Strategic Regional Land Use Policy, which ignores the Liberal-Nationals election commitment by not implementing protections for those places where mining and other extractive industries simply should not occur. The Strategic Regional Land Use Policy was meant to be the Government’s answer to the clear conflicts between mining and agriculture, with our best land mapped and placed off limits from extractive industries. Within the Coalition’s 2011 election platform it stated:

    • The New South Wales Liberals and Nationals believe that agricultural land and other sensitive areas exist in New South Wales where mining and coal seam gas extraction should not occur.

It was in that context that the Coalition made this clear commitment:

    • The strategic land use planning process will be able to identify strategic agricultural land and associated water and ensure that it is protected from the impacts of development.

The Leader of the Government in this House, the Hon Duncan Gay, has called for ring fencing of certain areas from mining and gas development. But what has been delivered to the people of New South Wales is a weak and confused policy, which allows mining on our best agricultural land, fails to protect our water resources and favours the Government’s big coal and gas mates over regional communities. The Chinese Government’s Shenhua Watermark Coal Mine is on the verge of approval in the heart of the Liverpool Plains, some of the most significant and valuable agricultural land in the country—perhaps on earth. Despite massive flaws in the data on water impacts, it is set for approval.

The gateway process was meant to streamline the planning process by identifying and rejecting inappropriate proposals from the outset but what has been delivered is a hole in the fence rather than a gateway. The gateway process has a lot of value—if only it were working properly. The gateway assessments have provided a lot of useful information and made that information available to the public in an accessible form. The problem with the gateway process is it has no power. It has no teeth. It is unable to say, “This project has major issues that should be addressed before it can progress to the planning assessment stage.” There is no red light. There is no gate in the gateway. There is only a green light, or perhaps an amber light. The Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel must issue either a gateway certificate or a conditional gateway certificate. The Greens want to fix the gateway panel, and give it some real powers. This bill will put a gate in the gateway, which will stop some extremely problematic mining projects in their tracks.

The three mines which have so far been assessed by this panel have progressed through the gateway despite failing the majority of assessment criteria. For example, the Bylong coal project was assessed as having “direct and significant impacts on the agricultural productivity of verified Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land [BSAL]” and to be “noncompliant with respect to its assessment of the equine Critical Industry Cluster [CIC]”, lacking “proper assessment of potential impacts”, and to have “misconstrued the gateway process and failed to put forward a compliant or considered assessment”. Yet the project was given the tick of approval and allowed to move on through the planning process. This is clearly a broken system.

The NSW Aquifer Interference Policy, which was meant to be a regulation which protects our vital underground water resources, is even more toothless. It simply acts as a “guide” to decision makers and is ignored by miners. A clear example of this is the Caroona coal project near Quirindi. This is a proposed underground longwall coalmine which will result, according to the gateway panel, in subsidence of 8,500 hectares of prime agricultural land and surface cracking of up to 300 millimetres. The panel report says there will be:

    • … changes to soil water drainage, increased surface water ponding and potential inundation of subsoil layers with associated physical and chemical degradation issues.

The panel report says:

        • With respect to ‘highly productive’ aquifers it has also been predicted by the applicant that 27 private bores located in the Gunnedah—Oxley Basin MDB (Spring Ridge) groundwater source will have impacts greater than minimal harm …

The gateway panel is particularly concerned about “the potential cumulative impact on the ‘highly productive’ Upper Namoi alluvial aquifer”. Despite all of this, the full extent of the application of the Government’s Aquifer Interference Policy is a letter from the Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water, Kevin Humphries, which says:

    • I have considered the input of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee and note their advice in relation to incomplete information and uncertainty in regard to impact predictions. As a result, there is not sufficient information available to allow for a proper assessment of the impacts of the proposal on water resources.

And that is all there is. Another Government initiative to supposedly safeguard our agricultural resources is the creation of Critical Industry Clusters [CICs]. These were created to protect centres of agriculture from mining, but the Government has ignored rice, citrus, cotton, sugar and dairy farmers, who have all indicated they want this limited protection. There is no process for industries to apply for protection; it is clear that this policy is merely a political fix for the equine industry and viticulturists in the Hunter Valley and not a serious initiative. Fiona Simson, President of NSW Farmers Association, summed up the Government’s approach to date earlier this year when she said:

    • The New South Wales Government has comprehensively failed to put in place the right checks and balances to protect precious agricultural areas.

Given neither Labor nor the Coalition have chosen to protect the community, the water supplies and the agricultural land of New South Wales, I am proud to introduce this bill, the Responsible Mining (Protecting Land, Water and Communities) Bill, on behalf of The Greens. The New South Wales community is overwhelmingly calling for this kind of action and protection. At the heart of this bill is a simple proposition: Mining should be undertaken responsibly and strategically and our land, water and communities should be protected from its impacts, where possible. Mining and other extractive industries access finite, non-renewable resources and we need many of these resources to support our communities and economy. The Greens are not opposed to mining.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: You are kidding me.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Farmers are not opposed to mining. I note the interjection from the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps. I have worked as a miner. I come from a mining family. We are not opposed to mining. My father was a tin miner. My grandfather worked in gas.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Point of order: It is impossible to hear the member’s second reading speech because of the constant interjections from the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps. I ask that he be brought to order.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: To the point of order: The member is deliberately provoking members opposite.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: To the point of order: The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps is flouting the rules of this House. He should be not only called to order, he should be named.

The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner): Order! I remind members that Mr Jeremy Buckingham has the call. Members will remain silent so everyone call hear the member with the call, including Hansard.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: The Greens are not opposed to coking coal coalmines. We do not want to see any new ones, but we acknowledge the role of coking coal in the production of steel. The Greens are not out there campaigning against iron ore or the appropriate mining of rare earths, nickel, zinc and antimony—some of these are things we use on a daily basis—as long as they are mined responsibly. That is exactly what this bill is about. We do not want to see new coalmines, and certainly we oppose all thermal coalmining and want to see it phased out. But to say that we are opposed to mining is juvenile and utterly incorrect.

We know that extraction and processing has a significant impact on other vital resources, including food-producing land, clean water, clean air, a safe and healthy environment in which to live, and a stable climate. Responsible mining is a model by which to manage these finite resources as demand for both mineral resources and other natural resources increases. A responsible mining approach looks to conserve mineral resources for the long-term benefit of the public while minimising the negative impacts and protecting those natural resources we rely on for survival—such as water, air and food-producing land.

This bill establishes a framework based on clear no-go zones, an independent and transparent planning and enforcement regime, and the ability for communities and landholders to prohibit mining or prospecting for minerals or petroleum. This legislation does not specifically prohibit coal and gas mining but would restrict all types of mining in protected areas and ensure mining development in other areas goes through an independent, transparent and accountable planning framework to ensure land, water and communities are not impacted by irresponsible mining. The Greens remain opposed to new coal and coal seam gas development and support a phase-out plan for existing operations. I now turn to the detail of the bill.

The Green’s Responsible Mining (Protecting Land, Water and Communities) Bill 2014 will establish a clear and responsible framework for mining by introducing clear no-go zones where mining and petroleum exploration and production cannot occur; legislating a right to say no to exploration and mining for communities and landholders; putting a gate in the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel to ensure inappropriate projects are rejected from the outset; and establishing an independent, well-resourced mining and petroleum authority to ensure that all approved mining and petroleum developments meet their ongoing legislative and regulatory requirements and that the granting of mining licences is free from corruption.

The bill makes a number of important amendments to the Mining Act 1992 and the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, including fixing up access agreements, restoring the public interest test, preventing conflicts of interest for decision makers, improving environmental protections, mandating audits of petroleum licence compliance and introducing strong penalties for late or incorrect payment of royalties. The Greens welcome the call by NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane for an extensive review and overhaul of these Acts with significant public involvement. We will move to establish an upper House inquiry into each of these Acts as soon as Parliament resumes following the 2015 election. We hope that we will receive the support of all parties in undertaking this overdue review.

The bill sets out clear no-go zones for mining and prospecting for minerals or petroleum by declaring or empowering the Minister to declare certain areas as protected land. This includes land in, or within two kilometres of, the following: national parks and State conservation areas; State forests; the areas of operation of the Sydney Catchment Authority and the Sydney Water Corporation; protected catchment areas; productive agricultural land; and tier 1 biodiversity land. It also includes land in, or within five kilometres of, residential, business or industrial zones under a local environmental plan.

Mining and extractive industries are already prohibited in national parks in New South Wales but not in State conservation areas and other reserve types. In fact, the key difference between a national park and these other areas is that mining is allowed. Although around 800 parks and nature reserves are managed by the Office of Environment and Heritage as part of its reserve system, only 199 are national parks with the highest level of protection. These other areas are identified in the reserve system for their natural assets and often the presence of endangered ecological communities and threatened species. If an area is gazetted as a reserve for environmental and recreational purposes either as a national park or a nature reserve it should be protected from mining because that is clearly an incompatible use when considered against the environmental and social objectives of these reserves.

State forests are natural resources that have been put aside to ensure a viable native forest industry for wood products. Often these areas are also important reserves for endangered ecological communities. To continue to diminish these natural assets by allowing exploration, mining and coal seam gas development will result in long-term or possibly permanent loss of this land for those purposes. We need only look at the Pilliga and Leard forests to see that is true. The responsible mining bill would ensure that land that is identified as a State forest will be maintained for that purpose for the long-term benefit of future generations and will not be opened up for mining or gas development.

Coal seam gas exploration and longwall mining are occurring within Sydney’s drinking water catchment and exploration licences continue to operate across many critical catchment areas. That is inappropriate. The protection of water quality for domestic use, stock and irrigation and the health of our river systems is not something that can be risk managed or traded away for a short-term benefit. An aquifer cannot be fixed. A river once polluted is almost impossible to clean.

In 2011, in response to a question in Parliament, the New South Wales Government acknowledged that historic antimony mining on the Dorrigo Plateau had deposited a plume of material containing heavy metals in the Macleay River system over approximately 200 kilometres and that the plume would continue to release elevated levels of heavy metals for millennia. Clearly, a precautionary approach is the only management technique available to protect our water systems.

The responsible mining bill allows the Minister with responsibility for water to declare certain areas as protected catchment areas so that mining or gas production will not be allowed within two kilometres of river systems, productive aquifers and drinking water catchments. The bill specifically prohibits mining or gas production within the areas of operation of the Sydney Catchment Authority and the Sydney Water Corporation, which have already been established by legislation. I know the member for Heathcote rarely supports that. The bill also creates an offence for interfering with highly productive aquifers as declared by the water Minister.

I am passionate about productive agricultural land. The Government’s Strategic Regional Land Use Policy deals exclusively with what is termed “strategic” agricultural land or the “best of the best”. The plans for the New England north-west and Hunter show that massive areas of productive agricultural land are left out of the plans and continue to be subject to mining and coal seam gas proposals. Clearly, the “best of the best” definition means that many farmers in New South Wales who are growing important food for the Australian community continue to be exposed to the risk of mining and gas development on their land.

Australia produces high-quality food for local and international consumers but is increasingly constrained by water availability and the loss of productive land because of urban and industrial encroachment. We simply cannot afford to lose more productive agricultural land to irresponsible and in some cases unnecessary development. While it is generally accepted that national parks and conservation areas should be protected from mining and extractive industries, there has been a slower realisation that there is a need to preserve our food growing areas. This country needs to protect productive agricultural land in food reserves. Protected productive agricultural land under the responsible mining bill is land identified as such under a scientifically based land classification system and declared by the Minister for Primary Industries.

Tier 1 biodiversity land is land declared by the Minister for the Environment after taking into account the need for the protection of vegetation in threatened and over-cleared landscapes, poorly reserved and severely depleted landscapes, source habitats for native fauna and critical landscape corridors and landscape connectivity. We have seen from leaked Santos internal documents on the Strategic Regional Land Use Policy obtained by The Land newspaper that the Coalition Government originally intended to protect land declared as tier 1 biodiversity but it was rolled by industry lobbyists and failed to protect our important natural assets. That is a cause for deep shame.

Mining and coal seam gas exploration and development are currently occurring close to and under residential communities. In Gloucester AGL is fracking wells within 350 metres of people’s homes. Today in Gloucester people in the Forbesdale residential estate are looking out their windows at frack rigs only 350 metres away. It is an utter disgrace. In Sydney the AGL Camden gas project is slated for expansion into the Camden and Campbelltown local government areas, which are parts of the Sydney south-west growth corridor, and into the heart of Liverpool. International, Queensland and local experience has demonstrated that subsidence, air quality and health impacts, well explosions and polluted waterways are likely impacts from mining and gas development. These risks are completely unacceptable in and around urban areas whether they are residential areas or non-mining industrial and business areas.

Another important aspect of the responsible mining bill is the provision to allow the community to make the ultimate decision about whether or not its village, town or region becomes a mining or gas precinct. Giving power back to the grassroots is a fundamental principle of The Greens and one I am proud to incorporate in this bill. The failure of the mining and gas industries to demonstrate that they can coexist with other industries means that, without the assurance of a veto, local communities and the long-term sustainable industries that support them, particularly agriculture and tourism, will continue to be sacrificed. In its 2009 Mineral Futures Discussion Paper the Institute for Sustainable Futures noted:

    • A major discrepancy exists in the power of local communities to influence regional futures planning and decision-making relative to global corporations and governments.

This discrepancy has been illustrated numerous times as communities are encroached upon by mines approved originally as boutique operations that over time have expanded to the point of forcing out other industries and turning some towns into a little more than mine service centres.

Mr Scot MacDonald: Just like Blakefield South.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Exactly. Bulga Coal is doing that there and in Muswellbrook. In fact, 51 councils have made statements on coal seam gas development unequivocally indicating their opposition to coal seam gas in their local government areas. A further 27 council have expressed significant concerns about coal seam gas. Despite this overwhelming opposition, local councils have no power to prevent mining in their communities.

In response to this communities are taking charge of their destinies via a grassroots process to declare their communities Gasfield Free. There is no better example of community opposition than in the northern rivers region where at last count 128 communities had declared themselves Gasfield Free with an average “yes” response of 95 per cent. The responsible mining bill would enable local councils to veto mining and gas activities through local environmental plans [LEPs]. The community can decide what mix of industries they want and where these industries go. It removes the right of State and Federal governments to overrule a council’s decision about where extractive industries can and cannot occur, but retains the responsibility with the State Government to ensure development occurs under suitable environmental and planning conditions.

This bill establishes a Mining and Petroleum Gateway panel, which will consider applications from all mining and prospecting for minerals or petroleum. The panel is similar to the current panel established by the Government but differs in two important aspects: first, it has the ability to reject inappropriate project applications if they do not meet the relevant criteria; and secondly, it expands the relevant criteria beyond simply looking at the impacts on biophysical strategic agricultural land and critical industry clusters so that the panel also must consider impacts on water resources, ecological communities, climate change and Aboriginal cultural heritage. In making its determination the panel must consider: whether or not there is a real or not remote chance or possibility that there will be a significant impact; the duration, extent and intensity of any impact; any proposed avoidance, mitigation, offset or rehabilitation measures in respect of any such impact; and the cumulative impact of the proposed development in addition to existing development.

The public has completely lost faith in the ability of this Government to regulate the industry, enforce licence conditions and hand out licences free from corruption. The establishment of an independent mining and petroleum authority is imperative to the efficient, effective, transparent and accountable management of mining developments in this State. This bill establishes such an authority to act as an independent and accountable body to ensure that all authorised mining or petroleum activities comply with any legislative and regulatory requirements. The authority also will be responsible for making assessments of applications for the grant or renewal of mining or petroleum exploration licences as recommended by ICAC.

There has been a big debate in New South Wales and across the country about the need for landholders to have the right to say no to mining and petroleum developments on their land. In response to that, one of the most significant and powerful grassroots movements in our nation’s history has emerged—the Lock the Gate Alliance. This movement encourages landholders to lock the gate to coal seam gas companies as a form of non-cooperation because the law, through arbitration, effectively allows gas companies to force their way onto people’s properties, regardless of whether or not landholders approve of it. The clear unfairness of this situation has meant that many senior Coalition members including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, and industry Minister Ian MacFarlane, all have supported the right to say no.

There is a clear community expectation that mining companies should not be able to force their way onto private land and that the serious power imbalance that exists when negotiating access arrangements should be addressed. This was clearly demonstrated in polling conducted by Essential Research in May 2013, which found that 86 per cent of people in New South Wales support allowing landholders to refuse access by mining companies to their land. I note that the Government is yet to respond to the Walker inquiry into access arrangements. The Government is sitting on its hands, has not responded to the Chief Scientist and has not responded to the very reasonable review conducted by Brett Walker, SC. The Greens call on the Government to immediately respond.

This bill establishes a simple and clear method of giving landholders the right to say no. The bill removes all sections in the Petroleum (Onshore) Act and the Mining Act relating to arbitration, meaning that there will need to be voluntary access agreements between the title holder and landholder before mining companies are able to lawfully access private land. Any prospecting operations to which a landholder agrees will be required to be carried out in accordance with an access arrangement agreed on between the holder of the prospecting title and each landholder in that area of land, which is very reasonable. The current procedure for an arbitrator to determine an access arrangement when the landholder has not agreed to such an arrangement will be removed.

Another important aspect of this bill is reinstatement of the public interest test as grounds for cancellation of a mining or petroleum licence. Earlier this year the Government sneakily removed the public interest test that was introduced as recently as the end of last year—we barely knew it—and in doing so significantly reduced the power of the Minister with respect to cancellation of mining and petroleum licences. That was another flip-flop from this Government as it staggers around in the mining and petroleum space. It is clearly appropriate for the Minister to take into account public interest when assessing the ongoing appropriateness of a licence for an activity that causes significant disruption to our land, water and climate. In this bill we have moved to reinstate this provision.

In fact, currently there are numerous instances where it would be appropriate for the Minister to use this power. BHP’s Caroona and Shenhua Watermark coal projects are set to be developed in the Liverpool Plains where some our most fertile soil and best climate for agriculture exist. It is an absolute disgrace that those projects were allowed to proceed. It is clearly in the public interest that those mines be prevented from proceeding. The Government would not be in the legal mess it currently is in with Metgasco, which owns unconventional gas licences in the northern rivers region, were it to have that power.

It is clear that this bill is needed. It restores balance to the community. It provides a framework for responsible mining. It empowers the community. I acknowledge the work of my staff—Justin Field, Adam Guise, Jack Gough and Max Phillips—and commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned on motion by the Hon. Dr Peter Phelps and set down as an order of the day for a future day.

« Older Entries