Heffernan to farmers: band together over coal seam gas

POLITICAL heavyweight Bill Heffernan has called on Griffith farmers to band together to oppose coal seam gas exploration. 

The Liberal senator made a last-minute decision to personally attend a NSW Farmers workshop discussing landholders' rights in Griffith yesterday. 

The workshop comes in response to an application before the state government for petroleum exploration encompassing Griffith, Coleambally, Yenda, Benerembah and more. 

The rural-minded senator appealed to local farmers to recognise the threat of coal seam gas mining and lobby the state government for more protection over their land. 

"When I chaired the senate inquiry into coal seam gas, the CSIRO told me they didn't understand the risks of coal seam gas mining but they thought it could take several hundreds of years to rebalance the aquifers after 30 years of mining," Mr Heffernan said. 

"I have come to tell Griffith farmers there is very little they can do by way of protection, the only way to deal with this threat is to bind together as a community. 

"One mistake farmers in Queensland made was to sign confidentiality agreements with the miners so they couldn't tell their neighbours what was going on and I don't want to see that repeated here." 

Mr Heffernan said the NSW government made a shocking mistake when it failed to afford Griffith and the MIA the protection of the gateway process - part of the Strategic Regional Land Use Policy. 

"A whole lot of the areas covered by these petroleum exploration licences are excluded from what the state government has defined as strategic agricultural land, which is just bureaucratic bullshit," Mr Heffernan said. 

"It's mind-boggling the MIA - which produces millions of cases of wine and a million tonnes of rice - doesn't qualify as strategic agricultural land, it's a most basic error by the NSW government and must be because they ran out of time and money when they were doing the zoning." 

After mayor John Dal Broi brought the mining issue to the attention of council last week, a number of councillors shared profound concerns. 

"If mining goes ahead here this town won't be worth anything, it will poison the water and we'll drop dead like flies," Cr Anne Napoli said. 

"We are a green environment and we produce food for the nation, so to allow people to exploit this land is not on." 

Council will prepare a submission for the public comment process but it must relate specifically to the exploration process and not make mention of potential mining in the future.

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