|Australian winemakers to march on parliament|
|Written by James Heywood|
|Monday, 30 April 2012 11:25|
Hunter Valley winemakers are leading a march on parliament in Sydney against government plans to allow coal seam gas exploration, which could threaten vine growing land.
On Tuesday May 1, thousands of Hunter Valley residents, including winemakers and farmers, will march on New South Wales Parliament House in protest. Winemakers are worried that CSG exploitation, which uses a process called fracking - involving injecting water into the seam - will deplete local water resources essential to grape growing.
The Hunter Valley Wine Industry Assocation said the New South Wales government's strategic regional land use draft plan puts miners' interests ahead of those of winemakers, landowners and residents, with particular reference to a clause allowing coal seam gas exploration proposals in those areas that are supposedly protected.
The plan - which outlines areas to be protected from mining exploration - will cost the state about AU$41 million per year in lost revenue from winemakers. A HVIA spokesman said the plan is short-sighted.
The Winemakers' Federation of Australia has identified mining as a particular hazard to the industry as mines "divert the local labour force and absorb tourism accommodation stock which impedes visitors from staying overnight", it said.
It is not only the Hunter Valley that has been identified as under threat from miners - the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in South Australia, as well Margaret River in Western Australia face similar difficulties.
At a recent community forum to discuss the strategic regional land use plan, a number of growers, farmers and horse-breeders heckled Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard as he arrived.
At the meeting, winemakers from the Upper Hunter Valley demanded to know why their land had not been seen as valuable enough to be protected from coal mining.
Resources Minister Chris Hartcher addressed the meeting, saying that the government wants to develop the state's resources industry as well as protecting key assets.