THE NSW Government has finalised landmark coal seam gas reforms which see safeguards in place for approximately 5.3 million hectares of the State's homes and high quality farmland, but the Greens NSW aren't happy.
Greens NSW spokesperson on mining, MP Jeremy Buckingham, has called on the O'Farrell government to increase the land area protected from coal seam gas after finding out that only 3.37% of NSW was protected from fracking in its CSG reforms.
"Only 3.37% of NSW's land area is protected from fracking for coal seam gas, and only 0.4% of land is classified as a critical industry cluster," Mr Buckingham said.
"96.6% of NSW, including most agricultural, environmental and tourism areas can still be turned into a gas field."
But Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazzard and Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts, who made the announcement today, said the reforms struck the right balance for communities and industry.
"Today marks a significant milestone in this Government's commitment to balance the energy needs of the State and the need to support our vital agricultural industry," Mr Stoner said.
"Coal seam gas exclusion zones are now in force for an estimated 95 per cent of dwellings covered by current petroleum licences and tough regulations are also now in place for NSW's most valuable agricultural land.
"We've consulted with the community to identify millions of hectares of biophysical strategic agricultural land and critical industry clusters and today we have acted to ensure that this important land is formally recognised and safeguarded.
"The NSW Government has delivered the strictest regulations around CSG activity in the country, which is a far cry from Labor who permitted CSG activity in residential areas and gave no special consideration to the impact of mining or CSG on the State's most valuable agricultural resources.
However, Mr Buckingham said that many productive agricultural areas and water resources, as well as key tourist and environmental areas will still be under threat.
He said it was a bad sign for the community that new resources minister Anthony Roberts had, as he said, "taken up the rabidly pro-CSG stance of former minister Chris Hartcher."
"The government has failed to apply the cluster regulation equitably or strategically, with only two agricultural industries gaining protection," Mr Buckingham said.
"Why is it that viticulture and equine industries have been granted protection from coal seam gas as critical industry clusters, but other valuable industries such as horticulture, rice and other cropping, irrigation areas, dairy, oysters, and tourism have no protection?"
"The industrialisation of productive agricultural land is not in the long-term interests of NSW. Food and fibre production are increasingly important industries worldwide and NSW should be promoting renewable energy not a new era of polluting fossil fuels."