When is a buffer zone not a buffer zone?

Visiting the Upper Hunter last week, NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley reiterated his views that the region's thoroughbred industry needed protection or buffer zones between its operations and coal mines.

But it appears there is some disagreement over what constitutes a buffer zone or if a buffer zone would really protect agricultural industries from industrial development.

Speaking at Land Use Futures: Upper Hunter forum held in Muswellbrook on Monday Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush said buffer zones aren’t the solution to land use conflicts.

Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush

Muswellbrook Mayor Martin Rush

In fact he was critical of the suggestion they would work in solving the planning deadlock between the thoroughbred  breeders and mining companies.

His suggestion to overcome the existing battlelines was the development of more sophistication in land zoning.

“At the moment we have only one zone to cover all agricultural land which is ridiculous. We need more zones to enable us to identify prime agricultural land and the other different types of farmland and land suitable for extractive industries,” he said.

He also suggested once the mapping was done and various land types were identified including Critical Industry Clusters (CIC)  – equine and viticulture there needed to be land zoned to allow for the extension of those CICs.

“We need to identify land where the CIC industries can expand in the future – that is a really important part of the zonal mapping project,” he said.

In the meantime Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Cameron Collins speaking at the same event as Mayor Rush said his organisation didn’t care what the protection was called buffer zone or otherwise they simply wanted certainty from the State Government when it came to mine development in the region.

“For both industries ourselves and the miners surely the Government, after all these years, can make a decision on where and where mining can’t go in the Upper Hunter,” he said.

Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Cameron Collins

Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Cameron Collins

“If they did so mining companies would not waste their time and resources making development applications which our industry will fight using all our resources to protect ourselves from such development. No one wins under the current system. Its time for the Government to show some real courage and provide us with long term protection.”