LAST Saturday’s Soapbox writer, Joy Cunningham, was wrong to say “..they own everything above it to an indefinite height and everything below it to an indefinite depth.”
I don’t know what a property owner can possess mid-air, but minerals and petroleum have been reserved for the Crown for about a century. It is arguable that the Crown has always claimed gold and silver, but this was clarified in statute in 1828. There were a number of pieces of legislation vesting power over minerals in the 19th century and in 1884, the Crown Lands Act finally reserved all minerals to the Crown.
In 1922 petroleum was proclaimed a “mineral”. The 1955 Petroleum Act vested all petroleum in the Crown. In 1981, Premier Wran passed the Coal Acquisition Act which ensured all coal in the state of NSW was owned by the Crown.
NSW has been a “resource” state and exporter since 1797. We have been the beneficiary of a strong mining industry for more than two centuries. In 2011/2012, $1.486 billion was raised in royalty revenue in NSW.
I think there are sound reasons for vesting mineral and petroleum ownership in the Crown. The people of NSW own the state’s resources, not a small number of individuals or corporations. The government can best decide when and how resources are extracted. Everyone benefits from the royalties. Equally the mining and gas companies can have confidence to plan, invest, employ and build their operations with government oversight.
The extractive industries always generated legitimate concern about conflicting land use, but the policy debate isn’t assisted by erroneous claims of ownership.
SCOT MACDONALD MLC
LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER OF THE NSW LEGISLATIVE