At a recent meeting of the Running Stream Water Users Association, Mitchell Clapham, the Mudgee district council chairman of the NSW Farmers Association expressed dismay over negotiations being conducted by Centennial Coal with farmers in the Ilford/Running Stream area.
“To be blunt, I feel pissed off!” he told Association members during an address last Sunday at the Running Stream Hall; “It raises my eyebrows, the things they put in their compensation schedule then argue it’s not compensable.”
Mr Clapham was referring to an item in the coal company’s Access Agreement about landholders’ time which is listed in the mining company’s compensation schedule yet, under Section 262 of the Mining Act, is not considered to be something “real or tangible”.
Apart from spending much of his time dealing with Centennial Coal over access to his own property on Mt Vincent, Mr Clapham has also been involved in the long-running negotiations between the NSW Farmers Association and the NSW Minerals Council over a mining access agreement template for members.
“It’s difficult to negotiate because farmers cannot legally deny access to mining companies but we do need to define what is fair and reasonable compensation”, he said.
Currently there is no legal precedent for compensating a landowner for their time, which can often be considerable. Mr Clapham has had three on-site meetings with Centennial and two external meetings, as well as spending many hours of his valuable time researching and making phone calls about the matter. “If a fitter at a mine can earn $80 to $100 per hour, then I think it’s only fair and reasonable that a farmer’s time is valued at least that much too.”
It is a point that has yet to be tested in a court of law but the Association has vowed to support any members who wish to take the matter to the Land and Environment Court. It also backs Councillor Esme Martens’ stance to make water a compensable loss. Surely this is only fair and reasonable?