PRIME agricultural land in the black soil plains in northern NSW, regarded as the best in Australia, is being taken from farming communities by coal seam gas mining companies in a form of ''legalised theft'', a retired NSW Supreme Court judge told a public meeting in Gunnedah yesterday.
The meeting, chaired by talkback radio broadcaster Alan Jones, also heard that the widespread incursion of miners into rural food-producing areas was the most extreme radical experiment in social engineering ever seen in Australia and would result in suicides and acts of terrorism against coal seam gas installations.
Allegations of government corruption were made with Mr Jones publicly reading part of a list he said was obtained under Freedom of Information that showed former ministers and ministerial employers from the governments of Bob Hawke, Bob Carr and Jeff Kennett who now worked as lobbyists for mining companies.
Former justice Robert Hunter, who retired in 2002 and has a property at Willow Tree, called on the O'Farrell government to establish an Office of Food Security and said local farmers were right to oppose miners harming their land and irrevocably damaging water supplies.
''It's a just cause that stands between the greed of the mining corporations and their feeding off the proceeds of unjust laws … Unjust laws that don't recognise the national importance of food security. It's the destruction of ancient land rights without any semblance of any form of just compensation.
''It's a form of legalised theft,'' he said.
About 400 people attended the Food Security Forum at Gunnedah Town Hall. A series of speakers warned against the impact that coal seam gas and mining could have on local water supply and the black soil plains prime arable land.
Many speakers painted the future of the Liverpool Plains as paralleling Queensland where they said Anna Bligh's government had handed over a swath of the Darling Downs and other areas to miners and local communities were being destroyed.
The meeting resulted in the unusual coming together of conservatives and lefties - descendants from the old squattocracy and newer settlers, and environmentalists - to attack the miners.
Drew Hutton, a veteran of various Greens campaigns including the fight to save Fraser Island in the 1980s, is now running the Lock the Gate Alliance.
He claimed the battle with miners was poised to become the ''biggest social movement in Australian history''.
Among familiar faces in attendance were Erica Packer, who grew up in the area, Carl Rackemann, the former Test cricketer who is standing as a Queensland state election candidate for Bob Katter's Australia Party, and Bob and Frances Anderson who live on Garrawilla, the property where the Andersons settled near Mullaley.
Their high-profile relative is the former deputy prime minister John Anderson, whose chairmanship of miner Eastern Star Gas has seriously reduced his vaulting popularity.
A local farmer, Rod Barnes, 56, has lived in the area all his life but in recent years a coal mine had opened next door.
''We've had coalmining here forever but every time I asked my neighbours something they'd say 'ask the consultative committee' and I never got any sense from anyone … so I thought I'd come to the meeting to see if I could get some answers,'' he said.
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