THE recent buyback of prime agricultural land by farmers on the state's Liverpool Plains has prompted calls from advocacy groups for the region to be spared from future gas projects.
Land owned by Chinese mining giant Shenhua for its recently cancelled Watermark coal mine was purchased by 12 local farming operations as well as one corporate institution for a total of about $120 million.
The sale came after the state government and Shenhua agreed in April last year that the mining giant would return its exploration license and withdrew its mining license for the site, prompting former Deputy Premier John Barilaro to say at the time there would be no "mining here on the Liverpool Plains, it's the end of the saga. Full stop. Full stop."
However, advocacy groups such as North West Protection Advocacy and Lock the Gate Alliance claim the area is still under threat from gas extraction and are calling on the state government to protect the district from gas projects.
"The Liverpool Plains is a nationally significant food bowl and the NSW Government's cancellation of plans to ruin it with coal mining was a huge relief, but the farming future of the Liverpool Plains will not be secure while it remains under threat from coal seam gas mining," NSW Lock the Gate Alliance spokeswoman Georgina Woods said.
"To safeguard this foodbowl forever, the Perrottet Government must also now cancel the remaining 1.1 million hectares of gas licences that hang over a large area of the North West, much of which is on the Liverpool Plains."
NSW Farmers president James Jackson echoed the call, saying the organisation was pushing the state government to remove the threat of PELs in the region.
"In our representations to government, we have reinforced the long-term nature of agricultural decisions and investment," Mr Jackson said.
"The doubt caused by the renewal of PELs in these areas severely undermines the ability to achieve these goals."
The calls come after the NSW Government scrapped several expired petroleum exploration licences (PELs) as part of its future of gas statement released last year.
A decision which a spokesperson for NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole said showed the government's preservation of agricultural land.
"The NSW Government's future of gas statement has reduced the area of land covered by PELs by 77 per cent," the spokesperson said.
"The return of prime agricultural land to local farming groups is another win for the community and vindicates the government's decision to rule out coal mining on the site."
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