AN ALLIANCE of North West community groups says state parliamentarians were shocked by the extent of mining expansion in the region when they met with them in Sydney last week.
Eight representatives from the groups attended an intensive three-day “meet and greet” with state politicians from all parties in an attempt to have some sway over policy governing the mining industry.
They say their discussions unearthed some hard truths about what’s really going on in the North West and many of the parliamentarians had been so dismayed by future mining developments, they put their heads in theirs hands in shock.
The North West Alliance is an umbrella group made up of about 30 farming, environmental and community groups targeting the growth of coal and coal seam gas mining in the region.
Many of its members have been involved in past blockades, protests and campaigns against the industry’s growth, but the representatives who lobbied last week took a different approach.
They attended discussions with about 30 politicians and their advisors, as well as exclusive meetings with Agricultural Minister Katrina Hodgkinson, Health Minister Jillian Skinner and Mental Health Minister and member for Barwon Kevin Humphries.
Alliance spokesman and Maules Creek landholder Phil Laird said they now had some useful contacts within the health ministry and had been promised a whole heap of follow-up action by other members.
Mr Laird said they had pitched the idea of a health impact study in the Gunnedah Basin and while they hadn’t been promised funding, there was some support.
The first round of the meetings last Wednesday came a day after the release of the government’s controversial Strategic Regional Land Use Policy.
Mr Laird said the politicians asked what the representatives thought of it and their response was that it provided certainty to miners but not to the communities living alongside them.
As a result of their discussions about the policy, he said they were dismayed to find out what was going on in the region, particularly with the level of planned mining activity in the Leard State Forest near Boggabri.
“They thought there was a whole suite of things that could be done rather than just opening up the state to mining,” Mr Laird said.
“They said they were still listening and there’s still work to be done.”
Mr Laird said the politicians they met from all parties, including Nationals, Liberals, Labor, Shooters and Fishers and Christian Democratic Party members, were very appreciative of the information they were given.
“There was no filter and the conversations were very robust,” he said.