NATS IN THE BLACK - License buyback a win for the black soils of the Liverpool Plains
The Nationals continue to show that we are a Party that can deliver progress on difficult issues and respond to the concerns of farmers and communities, last week announcing the buy-back of Shenhua’s exploration license on the Liverpool Plains. This buy-back means that no exploration nor mining will ever occur on the vital, black-soil plain areas.
Shenhua will relinquish 51 per cent of its exploration license in a win for local farmers bordering the proposed mine, and the food security of Australia.
Beginning in 2016 with the buy-back of the Caroona exploration license under former leader Troy Grant, the Nationals in Government have again moved to secure the future of the Liverpool Plains. In a joint statement with the Liberal Minister for Resources Don Harwin, Minister for Primary Industries and NSW Nationals Deputy Leader Niall Blair announced that the Government had successfully negotiated to buy back over half the Shenhua exploration license.
This will protect the precious black soils of the Liverpool Plains, twice threatened by the Caroona and Shenhua licenses issued under the former Labor Government, and twice protected by the Nationals.
Mr Blair said that the retraction of the license boundaries ensured that the prime agricultural land will only be used for just that – agriculture.
“Today’s agreement unlocks prime agricultural land for farming, helping to maintain the region’s reputation as one of the great food bowls of Australia,” said Mr Blair.
The exploration licenses were first issued on the Liverpool Plains under Labor, who not only failed to recognise the significance of the sensitive black-soil plains but rushed into the deals, disregarding all community, farming and environmental sentiments and concerns in their haste to sign away exploration rights for hundreds of millions of dollars – upfront. The Nationals and Liberals have worked hard to carefully renegotiate this position, buying back these exploration rights to safeguard the plains from any future mining activity.
The remaining portion of the exploration license will now be restricted solely to non-arable ridge country, under strict and non-negotiable compliance and monitoring requirements, with over 100 conditions implemented and six reviews necessary for any exploration to commence. These are the strictest set of conditions in Australian history for any mining operation. It is now for Shenhua to comply with these exploration license requirements before a single stone is turned on the ridge areas.
Such rigorous conditions maintain the balance between agriculture and mining in sensitive and productive areas, with the Shenhua operation projected to generate over 600 jobs for the local economy should exploration license conditions be met, without displacing agricultural assets.
The maintenance of this balance has been an area of focus for the Nationals over the past two years. Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson emphasised the importance of a mutually beneficial coexistence between mining and agriculture regarding both the Shenhua and the Caroona buy-back in August of last year.
“Farming and mining have long been the backbone of this region’s economy,” he said.
“Agriculture and mining can and should co-exist in appropriate areas and the sensitive black soil is not an appropriate place for mining.”
The shrinking of the Shenhua exploration license is the latest in a long line of buy-backs and victories of common sense for the people of NSW which the Nationals have championed.
Beginning in 2015, North Coast resident and Nationals MLC Ben Franklin used his maiden speech to endorse the NSW Nationals Member for Clarence Chris Gulatpis’ call for an end to all coal-seam gas (CSG) in the Northern Rivers.
Within a year, thanks to the tireless efforts of North Coast Nationals MPs, Party and members, over 19 Petroleum Exploration Licenses (PELs) were revoked or bought-back throughout NSW, protecting more than six million of hectares from exploration in the north-east of the State, with the Party able to proudly declare in December 2016 that there are “no more PELs in the Northern Rivers”.
This year, Nationals Member for Upper Hunter Michael Johnson guaranteed that mining in Gloucester would be limited to the existing Rocky Hill parameters after GRL Mining accepted his calls to relinquish their unused exploration licenses. In doing so, GRL noted the role he played in both defining the mining operations, and providing future employment prospects in the Gloucester region.
EXPLORATION LICENCE REVOKED: GRL COO Brian Clifford and Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen
The 2017-2018 Budget also included $50 million in additional funding for regional communities and towns impacted by mining. This funding will allow these towns to invest in new infrastructure, or repair current infrastructure, which is often impacted by increased residential and economic activity driven by nearby mining activities.
Where and how we receive our energy is an ongoing area of careful debate by the grassroots members of the National Party at Annual and Regional Conferences around the State. Dating back to the Party’s 2010 Annual Conference in Tamworth, motions have been debated calling for careful land-use management, recognition of community views to mining and gas exploration, integrated and thorough water-use and impact assessments to be carried out by all industry, and the measured and timely introduction of renewables into the energy system.
The NSW Nationals are proud to be the Party that listens, acts and delivers results that are in the long-term interests of all our communities.