Farmers demand review

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PAULA THOMPSON The Advertiser October 20th

GRAIN Producers SA says the passing of the mining Bill means South Australian landholders will be saddled with some of the worst legal framework in the country, putting prime agricultural land at risk.

In July, farmers watched on as controversial mining reforms passed the Lower House, despite four backbenchers crossing the floor to vote against it.

On Thursday, two more Liberal backbenchers crossed the floor over the issue but the Bill passed in the Upper House with the support of Labor. Grain Producers SA chairman Wade Dabinett said farmers had been let down by Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan, who had failed to honour the Liberal Party’s election commitment to undertake thorough consultation with primary industries.

“It’s been such a drawn-out, horrific process for landowners,” Mr Dabinett said. “We accept there’s no simple fix in this but we want to see a Government that’s prepared to take on tough reform.”

Mr Dabinett said an independent review of the Mining Act was now crucial.

GPSA has been calling for an independent review of the Act since the previous state government announced the Leading Practice Mining Acts Review in 2016.

“Minister van Holst Pellekaan should use this opportunity to refer this Bill to an independent review to bring certainty and finality to this legislation,” he said.

“This review should, among other things, thoroughly examine best practice land access frameworks in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia.”

Mr Dabinett said a small consolation for landholders to come from the Bill’s passage was the establishment of a free and independent mining advisory service for landholders.

Mr van Holst Pellekaan said the changes to the Mining Act delivered tangible improvements for both landowners and the resources sector.

“Our Government is committed to improving landowner rights, increasing protections for our environment and delivering more investment and jobs to our regional areas,” he said.

“The changes mean landowners will have more time, more legal support, increased access to justice and stronger protections when approached by exploration and mining companies.

“This will simplify the process for all involved in exploration and mining operations, and introduce more stringent… powers to ensure that operations and rehabilitation occur in line with approvals.”

Other amendments to the Bill included an increased exempt land distance from assets such as homes from 400m to 600m for high-impact mining operations, and increased time for landowners to make decisions from 21 to 42 days after a notice is served.

But Yorke Peninsula farmer Bill Moloney said changes in the Bill, including increasing the money available to landholders for legal advice by 500 per cent, were not enough to relieve farmers’ fears.

“When you’re talking about going from $500 to $2500 – that kind of money hardly gets your foot in the door with legal expenses,” he said.

“Just over four per cent of the state is considered arable – yet the Government is trying to give unfettered access to prime agricultural land. I think they need to look at Western Australia, which is a huge mining state, but it has tight laws around land access.”