New rules covering coalmining and gas development in residential areas and farmland have been criticised for doing nothing to protect drinking water catchments, including in the Illawarra.
Yesterday, the NSW government announced details of its long-awaited state regional land use plans, including the identification of prime agricultural land which would be subject to an additional "gateway" process before mining or gas projects could go ahead there.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said more than 30,000 hectares in the South Coast and Illawarra regions had been identified as high-quality farmland.
He said coal seam gas exclusion zones had also come into force, including all zoned residential land and rural villages and a two-kilometre buffer area around these locations.
But anti-CSG campaigner Jess Moore, from Stop CSG Illawarra, said the "gateway" process still did not rule out CSG or mining.
And while horse breeders and wine growers gain special off-limits status, drinking water catchments do not.
"It's a shocking thing to say, but our government still does not recognise that our drinking water catchments are of strategic value," she said.
"The government is making clear they don't intend to rule out CSG in drinking water catchments."
The plans were also criticised by the NSW Minerals Council for adding "significant additional requirements and conditions" on many mining proposals.
"While the NSW mining industry has accepted the need for strategic regional land use plans, we remain concerned about the impact of adding more bureaucratic duplication and delays onto an already rigorous and lengthy planning assessment process," chief executive Stephen Galilee said.
"With the Planning System Review still ongoing after 2½ years, and many other aspects of the assessment process uncertain, there remains a lot more work to do to return much-needed confidence for investors in the NSW mining sector."
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham rubbished claims of a "gas crisis" in NSW if the CSG industry was not boosted.
"The dangerous pursuit of coal seam gas is purely to feed the export LNG market," he said.
"The Greens share concerns of NSW Farmers that the gateway process still allows mining on prime agricultural land - betraying the Coalition's pre-election promise that these were areas where mining 'should not occur'."
Visit planning.nsw.gov.au/srlup for links to detailed information on the farmland mapping.