FARMERS are calling on the state government to provide communities with financial assistance to help defend themselves against incursions by cashed-up mining companies.
Liverpool Plains farmer Tim Duddy, who has been fighting for nine years against two proposed coalmines, moved the motion at the NSW Farmers’ annual conference this week.
Mr Duddy said members of the Caroona Coal Action Group have been forced to spend “millions – literally” scrutinising plans for the BHP Billiton and Shenhua Watermark mines.
He said the figure related only to expenses such as legal bills, water studies and soil testing and did not include income residents lost through devoting countless hours to the cause.
Under the proposal, which passed unopposed, NSW Land and Water Commissioner Jock Laurie would be tasked with securing funding from the government for communities.
With Shenhua capable of spending up to $100 million alone on a raft of water modelling studies for its Breeza project, the fear is that whoever has the deepest pockets will prevail.
“That third-party funding is the only way that you’re going to get proper rigour in the (planning) process,” he said.
“Every single thing that we have reviewed – and that the Independent Scientific Expert Committee and Gateway Panel has reviewed – is flawed.”
Meanwhile, farmers are also demanding that the government ensures independent baseline water and soil studies prior to any mining or coal seam gas activities commencing. The motion, passed unanimously, was put forward by Narrabri District Council chairman Matt Norrie on Tuesday.
“Often the message gets clouded with emotion,” he said. “We’re not here to scaremonger. We’re farmers and the health of our natural resource base is absolutely vital to the viability of our industry.
“With adequate testing regimes, we can at least have an informed debate on this issue.
“Baseline data is the key. You need to know what you’re starting with before you can assess an impact.”