Divisions emerge over key changes

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Divisions emerge over key changes
By FRANCES THOMPSON
Feb. 19, 2013, 10:30 p.m.

CONCERN: Coolmore Stud business manager Paddy Power in a paddock of mares and foals at Jerry’s Plains yesterday. Picture: Peter Stoop

CONCERN: Coolmore Stud business manager Paddy Power in a paddock of mares and foals at Jerry’s Plains yesterday. Picture: Peter Stoop

THE Hunter’s key wine and thoroughbred breeding industries mounted a strong, combined campaign against coalmining and coal seam gas but after the latest policy changes they disagree over the benefits.
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Division is also evident within the winegrowing community.

Hunter Wine Industry Association president Andrew Margan says the exclusion of ‘‘critical industry cluster’’ vineyards from coal seam gas activities is a win.

‘‘This government has restored our faith,’’ Mr Margan said.

He said the lack of two-kilometre buffers around the vineyards, as had been established around residential areas, was ‘‘no big deal’’.

He said the next priority was confirming with the government the boundaries of the Lower Hunter vineyards, so that the internationally recognised wine region would not be ‘‘Swiss cheesed’’ by resource developments.

‘‘I am confident we will prevail,’’ Mr Margan said.

The lack of buffer zones has dismayed thoroughbred breeders and Broke Fordwich winegrowers.

Coolmore Stud, near Denman, faces expanded mining from the north and the south.

Business manager Paddy Power said it was ‘‘imperative’’ horse studs and the communities that supported them were protected from coalmining to the same degree the new policy managed coal seam gas.

Mr Power said he had attended recent sales where doubts were raised about investment in Hunter studs and brood mares because of the problems caused by mining.

Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association president Cameron Collins said the Upper Hunter critical equine industry cluster needed buffer zones.

‘‘Mining up to our boundary fences does not provide us with the protection we need,’’ Dr Collins said.

Darley stud chief executive officer Henry Plumptre said excluding studs from coal seam gas activities did not protect them from the threat they faced from open-cut coal mines.

‘‘If we could get the Premier to give us a five-kilometre buffer from open-cut coalmines we would be heading in the right direction,’’ Mr Plumptre said.

Broke Fordwich Wine Tourism Association president Eden Anthony disagrees with Mr Margan on the issue of buffer zones for vineyards.

Mr Anthony said the region differed from Pokolbin.

Its smaller, more isolated wine and tourism businesses were surrounded by paddocks and grazing land that were vulnerable without buffer zones.

‘‘Broke Fordwich is very exposed,’’ Mr Anthony said.

‘‘It is nowhere near what we need.’’

Hunter Valley Protection Alliance spokesman Graeme Gibson said he wanted the changes backed by legislation before September 14 to ensure the moves were not linked to support for the Coalition at the upcoming federal election.

NSW Farmers have criticised the changes, saying agricultural land has been left unprotected from coal seam gas.

The organisation’s representative, Gloucester farmer Aled Hoggett, said the new policy was directed at urban residential areas and voters but created a valuable precedent.

Cr Hoggett said the changes were an admission by the government some areas should be excluded from coal seam gas activities, which until now it had been ‘‘extremely reluctant’’ to do.

Last week, the government began a verification process that will refine maps of the vineyard and equine critical industry clusters.

In a letter to Mr Margan, the Department of Primary Industries said the mapping verification process would ‘‘establish a list of all enterprises’’ that matched the criteria for a critical industry cluster.

Mr Margan told the Newcastle Herald before the release of the latest changes this meant the wine industry would have to ‘‘justify’’ itself block by block.

‘‘We should not have to justify everything within our internationally recognised [wine-growing] boundary,’’ he said.
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‘‘We refuse to be part of it.’’

Mr Margan said the association wanted a ‘‘bill of protection’’ similar to those enacted in South Australia and Western Australia that safeguarded wine and tourism regions from all forms of inappropriate land use.

‘‘We don’t want to be the first winegrowing region in the world co-existing with coal seam gas,’’ he said.
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