THE NSW Nationals will lobby the state government to extinguish 'zombie' petroleum exploration licences, after the party unanimously passed a motion at its recent annual conference.
There are more than a dozen expired exploration licences, covering 56,000 square kilometres of the state, that are still technically active despite expiring. They cover much of the North West, stretching from Dubbo to the Queensland border.
If an application to renew a licence is made before its expiry date, the licence can continue indefinitely until a decision is made - some applications are still undetermined after six years.
The Boggabri Nationals branch put forward the motion. Branch chair Pat Murphy said it was time to close the legal loophole, which was stifling the agricultural industry.
"It's having a detrimental impact, because farms and businesses won't expand or buy land because they know it's covered by these licences that could become active again," Mr Murphy said.
"We've got to provide businesses and landholders with confidence and certainty moving forward."
Mr Murphy said landholder rights had proven to be a "massive issue" in the North West.
"One of the reasons the Nationals lost the unlosable seat of Barwon, was because of the conflict over land rights," he said.
"People feel like Sydney isn't listening to them. We must meet this challenge head on."
Lock the Gate spokeswoman Georgina Woods said she wasn't surprised to hear the motion got up.
"The party passing this motion expresses the frustration many landholders feel about the expired licences being allowed to linger in the North West," Ms Woods said.
"They're hanging around like a bad smell and the government has done nothing to extinguish them, and give back certainty to the agricultural community."
Mr Murphy stressed the motion was not designed to impact the Narrabri Gas Project.