THE state government claims they have got the balance right when it comes to the Strategic Regional Land Use Policy and the mapping of two critical industry clusters (CIC) in the Upper Hunter region.
Two CIC’s, for the equine and viticulture industries, have been declared which means coal seam gas activity is now prohibited in the mapped CIC areas.
The Hunter Valley Protection Alliance, who have been lobbying for at least eight years to have the Broke Fordwich wine growing area excluded from CSG mining, welcomes the mapping of two kilometre exclusion zones around the villages of Broke and Bulga but is disappointed the whole region has not been included in the CIC.
“The government has not gone far enough in that it has not declared a CIC exclusion for the whole of the Broke Fordwich winegrowing region but has, rather, declared nine different remote and non-contiguous viticulture CIC’s with in that region,” Hunter Valley Protection Alliance Vice-Chairman, Graeme Gibson said.
“Fragmenting the cluster reduces its significance and its valued qualities and it could devastate its position in the wine and wine tourism market and the viability of all other businesses which depend on the winegrowing industry. Imagine driving from your luxury accommodation through a gas field to get from one cellar door or restaurant to the next,” he said.
Mr Gibson said there has been no such fragmentation of the CIC in and around the adjacent winegrowing region of Pokolbin and suspects this is due to the submissions put forward by AGL Energy.
The maps were exhibited in October and November 2013 to ensure that the process captured all relevant enterprises.
Landholders were given the opportunity to nominate their land for inclusion if it met certain criteria and mining and coal seam gas companies were also allowed to identify properties they owned as at the date of release of the Strategic Regional Land Use Plan (September, 10 2012) to have these properties removed from the CIC mapping.
“Despite the presence of AGL Energy conducting Coal Seam Methane Gas actives in and around the Broke and Bulga area, there is no reason why the Broke Fordwich winegrowing regions should be treated differently from other Critical Industry Cluster’s. Why is Broke Fordwich being punished?” he said.
The Alliance met with the planning department last week and presented a submission for the minister’s consideration and is now hoping to gain the support of local member, George Souris.
“Mr Souris is really our last hope and at this stage he is looking into the matter.”
At the time of print the Chairman of the Hunter Valley Protection Alliance, Stewart Ewen was travelling to Maitland to meet with Mr Souris at a cabinet meeting.