Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Importance of Land Use Plans

Meetings, the importance of Land Use Plans, rapid expansion of coal and coal seam gas industries in the Hunter, CSG Industry’s statistical spin.

Last Thursday I went with others from Putty to a meeting at the Department of Environment at Governor Macquarie Tower in Sydney. The security in the building was daunting but the meeting gave us a chance to put our case forward for a mining free zone at Putty.

We were advised that the Regional Land Use Plan for the Upper Hunter which is currently being prepared by the NSW government is going to address this issue and were told that through this process communities are going to have a once in a lifetime chance to influence the future of their areas.

The state plan will identify the best places for a range of land uses – agriculture, mining, coal seam gas extraction, conservation, urban development and other types of land use. The reference group includes representatives from the NSW Farmers Association, Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association, Thoroughbred Breeders of the Hunter Valley, the Total Environment Centre, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, NSW Aboriginal Land Council, NSW Irrigators Council and mining industry groups. See Fact Sheet at

On Sunday I went to a meeting of people representing various groups in the Hunter which are against the rapid expansion of the coal and coal seam gas industries.

Again we were told of the significance of the Land Use Plans and that they were to be based on the triple bottom line – Profit, People, Planet or Economy, Society, Environment. A study, Triple Bottom Line Measurement and Reporting in Australia, at mentions accountability, transparency and sustainable development. Where have I heard those words before? Oh yes, at meetings with Dart Energy.

The Upper Hunter Land Use Plan is expected to be ready for public comment between December and March. The Moratorium on fracking ends 21 December.

We were also told about the huge expansion of the port at Newcastle to cope with coal mining increasing from 100 million tons to 320 million tons in a very short time. No master plan for the development of Newcastle Port is in place and the latest technology for container ports offers very few new job opportunities. (Will Newcastle be like Gladstone where fishing and swimming are now banned due to pollution?)

We heard about health studies at Newcastle University, the lack of mental health studies and that the Health Department is the one department that can stop anything, if they have the evidence. Mining companies are asked to do Environmental Impact Studies but not Cumulative, Transport or Health Impact Studies.

A farmer from Jerrys Plains has to pay for legal council and environmental impact studies to protect his farm from coal miners who want to mine very close to the World Heritage Wollemi National Park. He has asked the courts for extra time for the studies to be completed but is not expecting to get it. His case is set for 10 October in Singleton.

The following is a selection of quotes and things I learnt at that meeting.

Bureaucrats and mining companies hate civil action.

Don’t let miners into your house. They’ll learn a lot about you, judge you and know your weaknesses.

Erosion during the 2010 December floods at Coolah exposed gas pipes which had been buried.

Industry or community groups have more sway with government departments at some levels than action groups.

Landowners in Western Australia and South Australia have the right to say no to mining on their land.

CSG Industry’s Statistical Spin
The Sydney Morning Herald article below says – ‘Power stations in Queensland that run solely on coal seam gas produce greenhouse emissions that are up to 73 per cent less per megawatt of electricity than Hazelwood power station in Victoria that burns brown coal, the association [Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association] said.

The coal seam gas industry has been touting the figure of 70% for some time. Because the coal seam gas industry is mainly in Queensland and NSW they should be comparing it with the cleaner black coal, not brown coal which is not mined in these states and is being phased out in Victoria. Read the article below.

Coal seam gas could 'accelerate' warming
24/09/11 Sydney Morning Herald - Nicky Phillips and Ben Cubby
Switching from coal-fired power stations to gas could actually speed up climate change over the next few decades, according to new research challenging accepted wisdom about low-emissions fuel.

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