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CONVENORS of the Farmers’ Forum about the state government’s Mining Bill have the numbers to back their calls for change.

About 300 landowners and concerned residents from across the peninsula attended the forum at the Central Yorke Football Clubrooms, Maitland, last Thursday, September 27.

“The current act is weighted in favour of the mining industry,” forum chairperson Robert Brokenshire said.

“In 1893 when the Mining Act was introduced, legislators could see the importance of agriculture, unfortunately that same protection is not in this bill.”  Several resolutions were passed by the end of the four-hour session, which included calling for the state government to amend Section 9AA of the Mining Act to give farmers the right to prevent exploration and mining companies on their land and further community consultation.

Member for Narungga Fraser Ellis said he was willing to cross the floor of parliament if he couldn’t convince the party room to endorse his position.
“That the Crown owns the minerals under the ground is irrelevant in my view, and I don’t propose to alter that,” he said.

“That the freehold landowner’s property has to be destroyed in order to access these minerals is relevant.”

THE right of farmers to veto exploration on their land without the threat of court action was always going to be a focal point for landowners attending the Maitland Farmers’ Forum.

Former Member of the Legislative Council Robert Brokenshire chaired the forum, which included presentations by Member for Narungga Fraser Ellis, Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan and co-convenor Joy Wundersitz.

Concerned locals are committed to continuing their fight for change after they were left furious the Mining Bill entered parliament without promised consultation.

“To fully protect agricultural land across the state, all such land should be off-limits to mining,” Mrs Wundersitz said.

“However, we are not going to get that in the current political climate.

“We also recognise there are some farmers who genuinely want to reach agreement with exploration and mining companies.” Mrs Wundersitz said there must be a compromise, retaining the section which allows farmers to waive exemptions if they choose but deleting the section allowing miners to take those who refuse to do so to court.

“This would mean that landowners who do not want exploration or mining companies on their land, who are not interested in selling or receiving compensation can simply say no without the threat of court action hanging over their heads,” she said.

“This one amendment would go a considerable way to redress the massive power imbalance which currently exists between miners and farmers.” Mr Brokenshire ended the meeting by urging people to contact forum convenors and write letters to the minister and local member voicing their opinions.

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