Cr Vic Pennisi thinks new legislation could be the last straw.
Cr Vic Pennisi thinks new legislation could be the last straw.

Proposed laws a threat to farmers

PROPOSED legislation designed to protect good-quality agricultural land looks set to hinder producers and has left local councillors reeling.

State Government's Strategic Cropping Land draft policy, which is open to submissions until the end of September, should stop urban areas and mining from encroaching on farm land.

However Southern Downs Regional Cr Vic Pennisi said he fears, if approved, the policy could “push farmers out of existence”.

Mayor Ron Bellingham also said he had huge concerns the policy would instead adversely impact on farmers who would not be able to carry out improvements such as building packing sheds or other farm infrastructure on their land.

“We need to get that debate going and particularly our rural people need to be aware of the impact on them, as it seems to be all impacts and no benefits,” Cr Bellingham said.

Under the scheme producers could face a $46,000 application fee should they want to build a shed bigger than 700m2 on their land if it falls under strategic cropping land.

The elected officials' comments came following questions over the weekend's mining information session, which saw 60 people head to Warwick Cowboys Clubhouse to hear from representatives of groups such as Friends of Felton and the Toowoomba Coal Mine Action Group on the risks of mining on our communities.

The meeting was organised by newly formed Southern Downs Protection Group as a response to news a permit to explore application was submitted with the State Government.

With one-fifth of Queensland covered by exploration leases, it's no surprise there's an application for a permit for coal exploration in the Southern Downs.

What is of concern is the 400sqkm area, which covers the Warwick city centre, and the fact that, despite being submitted in 2008, the Southern Downs Regional Council has only just become aware of its existence.

While the Southern Downs isn't in immediate danger, the message from our food bowl neighbours who have been battling the mining companies and government is clear – we must be educated.

For Cr Vic Pennisi there is no question of mining in the region's agricultural land.

“You can't eat coal, you can't eat gas and you can't eat water,” he said.

“Food producers are the most important people on earth and without food you can't do anything.

“The most important thing is that land is protected.”

Cr Cameron Gow first raised the issue of the exploration permit application in council.

He attended Saturday's meeting, along with councillors Pennisi and Neil Meiklejohn, and yesterday said, being brought up as a farmer, he has an enormous respect for the fact farmers had learnt to use the landscape they're from.

“People have an affinity for the land,” Cr Gow said.

“There is economic benefit that comes from mining but once that is gone, what are you left with?”

Cr Meiklejohn said he had concerns about the environment and the impact of coal seam gas on aquifers.

He said while the science is still unclear, he was concerned of potential damage that could be done.

Warwick Chamber of Commerce president David Littleproud said he felt the chamber would definitely need to discuss mining and formulate a position on it in the near future.



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