DROUGHT-stricken Liverpool Plains farmers are appalled by the “breathtaking hypocrisy” in the NSW government’s decision to renew the exploration licence for the Shenhua coal mine.
While Breeza farmer John Hamparsum is disappointed by the decision, he said farmers had grown accustomed to “this sort of behaviour from the government, where they say one thing and do another”.
“The minister said the government would not be releasing any other Liverpool Plains land for exploration – if that’s the case, why is he releasing this land?” Mr Hamparsum said.
“He’s saying we need to protect the Liverpool Plains, then he turns around and renews a licence right in the heart of it.
“We’re right in the middle of a drought. This is the last news we wanted to hear.”
Breeza farmer Andrew Pursehouse, whose property neighbours the proposed mine, said it would be “people power” that determined the mine, “not politicians or bureaucrats”.
“We’ve been fighting this for 10 years and we are happy to keep fighting,” Mr Pursehouse said.
“We’ve seen the protest that have been happening in the Pilliga and against the Adani mine.
“If this gets a guernsey from the government, the protests here will be a whole lot worse, with a whole lot of people.”
‘Backing big mining over farmers at every turn’
The NSW government had backed Shenhua over farmers at every turn, NSW opposition resources spokesman Adam Searle said.
“The minister cannot be trusted when he says the NSW government will not release other parts of the Liverpool Plains for exploration,” Mr Searle said.
“The Berejiklian government did not have to hand over $262 million for the expired licence – but it did. The Berejiklian government did not have to renew part of the licence today – but it did.”
Last year, Labor raised concerns about a statement Shenhua had made to the Hong Kong stock exchange, saying an agreement had already been reached for a partial extension of the lease.
However, resources minister Don Harwin and the government strongly denied any deal.
“In the light of this decision, people are entitled to ask the question, ‘Who was telling the truth?’,” Mr Searle said.
“The Liberal-National government should have listened to NSW Labor’s calls to shut this project down, as it was permitted to do under the original agreement.
“Instead, we’re back in the position of potentially seeing the Liverpool Plains’ water table and food bowl being compromised by unnecessary mining.”
NSW Greens resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said the Nationals had let farmers down by standing by and doing nothing as the licence was renewed.
“We’re now in the second decade of uncertainty for farmers in the Liverpool Plains and this is utterly unacceptable,” Mr Buckingham said.
“The National party needs to explain what taxpayers actually got for the $262 million buyback if this mine is still going ahead.
“If the Nationals have abandoned farmers, then they can be sure the Greens will continue to represent their interests.”
Lock the Gate’s Georgina Woods said the decision was “devastating”.
“I don’t understand why they keep putting farmland in the path of the mining industry,” she said.
“It’s really disappointing the government has had several opportunities to stop the project and they’ve squandered every one of them, while pretending they want the prime agricultural land of the Liverpool Plains protected.
“NSW government has clearly failed to stand up, but that doesn’t mean the mine is going to go ahead.
“We are committed to fighting this every inch of the way, because it is simply the wrong place for a coal mine.”
Lock the Gate is still waiting on the outcome of a court case, which seeks classified documents related to the why the NSW government decided to buy back half the licence.
“We want to know what basis the decision was made on, because as far as we can tell, it's a very bad one for the farmers of the Liverpool Plains,” Ms Woods said.