NSW gets tough on CSG industry
By Adam Bennett, AAPJune 23, 2012, 3:17 pm
NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner has declared the royalty “holiday” over for the state’s coal seam gas (CSG) industry, while a new Land and Water Commissioner would be appointed to protect the rights of farmers and landholders.
The Nationals leader announced the controversial industry would no longer enjoy the five-year exemption from paying royalties, as part of a raft of tough CSG measures announced at his party’s state conference.
Mr Stoner said CSG companies would also be asked but not obligated to contribute to a regional community fund, with the government refunding $1 to the companies for every $2 committed up to 10 per cent of the royalty take.
“The holiday is over for coal seam gas producers – they are expected to pay their way under this new regime,” Mr Stoner told reporters outside the conference at Bowral.
“They will also be asked to contribute towards a new regional community fund which the government will co-contribute by way of a dollar refund for every two dollars provided into that regional fund.
“We think if regional communities are affected by the resource industries, they ought to get a return in terms of funding for infrastructure and other community needs.”
Legislation to scrap the royalty exemption would be introduced into parliament after the winter recess, he said.
Mr Stoner said the new Land and Water Commissioner, to be appointed by the end of the year, would advocate on behalf of landholders and farmers who have long complained about their treatment by CSG producers with the automatic right to access their land.
The commissioner would oversee the creation of standardised land access agreements for CSG exploration on private land, Mr Stoner said.
However, the existing access laws would remain in place.
“The commissioner will act as an advocate, and have in place a template agreement regarding access,” Mr Stoner said.
“Farmers and other landholders do need to be treated fairly and with respect.
“We’ll be looking to lift the bar when it comes to the negotiations and also compensation.
“In that role the land and water commissioner will have an important role to play, that if people aren’t playing by the rules, then the government will get involved.”
The new CSG measures were welcomed by lobby group NSW Farmers and the Greens – both of whom said it was a good first step.
NSW Farmers President Fiona Simson said the community had been asking for such provisions during negotiations over the government’s yet-to-be-finalised regional land use plan.
“It is a good step forward, particular the announcement of the Land and Water Commissioner in terms of ensuring that we do have balanced development in NSW, that we are looking after the energy needs of our state as well as our farmlands and our water resources,” Ms Simson told reporters in Bowral.
NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said while the changes were a big win for the community, they did nothing to place agricultural land out of bounds to CSG producers.
“The community clearly wants productive agricultural land in NSW placed ‘off limits’ to coal seam gas exploration and mining,” Mr Buckingham said in a statement.
“Another high level bureaucrat does not satisfy the community’s demand for protection.
“We need legislative change to end the automatic right for mining companies to enter private properties to conduct exploration.”
The NSW Minerals Council cautiously welcomed the appointment of a Land and Water Commissioner “if implemented properly”.
“We’re yet to examine the detail, but broadly speaking, we hope this new role will provide increased confidence and certainty within the assessment process,” Council chief Stephen Galilee said in a statement.