O'Farrell approves coal mine in key conservation and farming area

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The O'Farrell Government has approved a major Boggabri coal mine in a key conservation and farming area it promised to protect under its strategic land use policy, Shadow Minister for the Environment, Luke Foley said today.

The O'Farrell Government has approved the coal mine in the Gunnedah Basin – despite mapping the surrounding region as 'tier one biodiversity area' with the highest conservation significance in the New England North West draft strategic land use plan released earlier this year.

"This decision makes a mockery of the O'Farrell Government's election promise to keep mining off high value environmental and agricultural land," Mr Foley said.

"The government's strategic land use plan for the New England region classified this area as high level conservation land only a few months ago – and now they are ticking off on a major coal mine expansion.

"Farmers and environmentalists have joined together to protect the Leard State Forest and surrounding farmland in the Maules Creek area, east of Narrabri.

"Some 5,000 hectares of forest will be cleared for this open cut coal mine.

"Maules Creek is a beautiful rural area nestled in the shadow of Mount Kaputar National Park.

"I've visited the area, I've seen the destruction that has already occurred in the Leard State Forest. Maules Creek will be changed forever from a small farming community to an industrial zone.

"This decision is further proof the O'Farrell Government is betraying regional communities and breaking their election commitments to protect prime agricultural land, water supplies and the environment from mining and Coal Seam Gas operations.

"I'm not surprised the NSW Farmers' Association has unanimously passed a motion calling on the Premier to intervene in his government's land use policies.

"The Planning Minister's strategic land use plan clearly isn't worth the paper it is written on.

"The Planning Minister no longer enjoys the support of his cabinet and partyroom colleagues on this issue and the public can have no confidence in him to do the right thing by our environment or farming communities.

"It took the Labor Opposition to release the O'Farrell Government's aquifer interference policy yesterday – which is completely at odds with the Liberals and Nationals' pre-election commitments and offers our aquifers and prime farming land no protection from Coal Seam Gas and mining operations.

"It is time for Mr O'Farrell to intervene and deliver on his election promises to regional communities around NSW."