Were All Fracked, So Make The Best Deal Possible
The NSW government has ruled landholders can’t lock the gates to coal seam gas miners, clearing the way for drilling and fracking right across the State.
In the final version of the controversial Strategic Land Use Policy announced by Premier Barry O’Farrell, no land is quarantined from gas exploration or mining applications.
Former head of the Law Society and chairman of Stacks Law Firm, Maurie Stack OAM, said the announcement means landowners have no right to stop the miners no matter how valuable their land is to agricultural production or conservation.
“The cry from the vast majority of people, and in particular those in the north of NSW where I live, to ‘lock the gates’ have counted for nothing,” Mr Stack said.
“When mining takes place on private property there are two winners and one loser. The mining company gets profits and the government gets royalties. The loser is the landowner left with the mess on the surface and the risk of damage to the water aquifer underneath.”
The new policy expands the amount of land classified as “strategic agricultural land” which will be subject to a new “Gateway” process overseen by an independent scientific panel.
The government lifted the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, in which coal seams are smashed to release trapped gas. This is despite public concerns the process can damage aquifers and leak methane to the surface.
It will be tougher for a mining company to obtain a licence to prospect and mine coal seam gas explorations, and conditions imposed will be more strict.
But once the Minister for Mines has given a mining company permission to carry out testing or mine on your property, you can’t stop them. They can smash through locked gates.
Mr Stack said it’s important for landowners approached by miners wanting access to their land to get the best deal possible. Landowners are entitled to compensation for damage on the land’s surface, but not for damage to underground aquifers.
“If you are approached by a miner to access your land you can and should engage a competent lawyer to advise you in negotiations for a land access agreement.
“It’s free for the landowners. The mining company has to pay your reasonable legal costs. If you can’t reach agreement it goes to an arbitrator.”
But Mr Stack fears landowners’ rights will be diminished even further once the government releases a standard land access agreement that is currently being negotiated.
“Once a standard agreement has been adopted it will be harder to convince an arbitrator that anyone should get different rights.”