FROM the outset I want to dispel any ambiguity that my party membership precludes my ability to freely complain about issues that affect the region where I live.
I won’t be gagged by any person or party and I believe that labelling me a “Nationals mouthpiece” merely displays the ignorance of the author. Those that know me well appreciate that I’m a little more complex than that.
I am a passionate mouthpiece for a range of issues and causes including standing up for the fine people of the Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) area, of that you can be confident.
With the prospect of a federal election, coupled with a dash of wedge politics thrown in for good measure, the issue of coal seam gas and coal mining on prime agricultural land is again front and centre. I fear that the rhetoric of the NSW government when in opposition has not been matched by deed in government on the issue of protecting prime agricultural farmland.
The question has been asked of me “If we have the strongest safeguards for our prime agricultural farmland, why are the natives restless?” Indeed!
Mullaley within the Tamworth electorate is not quarantined from coal seam gas because sadly for them their population does not exceed 1000. During the late 1980s and ’90s I frequented the family of a beautiful black soil property at Breeza which has sadly succumbed to Shenhua Watermark Coal.
I wonder what Ian MacDonald was thinking, but I do not blame the farmers for a second for selling.
To be fair to the current NSW government, they inherited a mess created by the former ALP government in the form of the sale of a myriad of exploration licences over farmland that should never have been touched by anything other than a farmer’s plough. We need to protect such irreplaceable assets as the pristine black-soil farmland of the Liverpool Plains which is arguably the best farmland in the world.
Unfortunately this is not a simple argument. The problem within the Tamworth electorate (and it is replicated elsewhere) is that there is a considerable voting population, especially in Gunnedah, who value mining and the jobs created by mining and the opportunities this provides to the local economy.
You will find many voters in this electorate worried about job losses if mines pack up and possibly more so than those concerned about the farmland. You cannot blame them – jobs are important and certainly rare in rural NSW.
The people of NSW still await a comprehensive groundwater study because many are left wondering who will be liable should our precious aquifers be damaged by oal seam gas extraction. I know the NSW government needs the proceeds of royalties but we need to safeguard our food-producing prime agricultural farmland more.
As an aside what I would love to see is the Western Australia version of royalties for regions, this may assuage some of the concern we see in our communities, even just a little bit.
Finally, readers can rest easy, prior or current party membership by TRC councillors does not impact the decisions made by council. I appreciate all feedback both critical and complementary.