Farmers 'deserve more gas cash': NSW Energy Minister

POSTED May 17, 2012

FARMERS could share a bigger slice of the resources boom under a NSW plan to increase payments to landholders and overcome objections to "fracking" rigs that unlock coal-seam gas.

The NSW government proposal is aimed at breaking a deadlock that has left the state lagging far behind a Queensland bonanza where companies are investing $30,000 every minute to produce the gas.

Company executives warned that the state was moving too slowly to tap its gas reserves despite a supply shortage that appears likely to force up household energy prices.

Delays to the east coast gas projects have also triggered a national policy row as Resources Minister Martin Ferguson calls on NSW to act quickly because of the potential for new supplies to increase exports as well as provide the energy to replace coal-fired power stations.

Signalling his plans for a new gas regime, NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher declared yesterday that farmers should expect greater payments to ensure that CSG increased rather than cut the value of their land.

Mr Hartcher backed a call by the National Farmers Federation for greater compensation but rejected the idea that rural groups could veto projects.

The minister's comments indicate his intentions for a strategic land-use policy that is behind schedule but will be released in about three months.

"One of the areas that we are looking at is to ensure a reasonable level of compensation to farmers, which isn't just compensation for the nuisance but is compensation for the development of the facility on their land," Mr Hartcher said.

NFF vice-president Duncan Fraser said CSG must be seen as adding to the value of a farm.

NSW already imports more than 95 per cent of its gas. Mr Hartcher acknowledged that consumer prices would rise if the state did not increase supply.

Company executives warned that NSW was not doing enough to tap its gas reserves.

Santos vice-president for eastern Australia James Baulderstone said the proceeds from CSG had to be balanced three ways between individual farmers, the local community and the state that owned the resource.

Annabel Hepworth (The Australian, 16 May 2012)