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Farmers shocked at minister's slur

Date
Brad Hazzard ... labelled the lobby group as "almost irrelevant".

Brad Hazzard ... labelled the lobby group as "almost irrelevant".

The NSW Farmers Association says it's shocked the state's planning minister has labelled the lobby group as "almost irrelevant" to consultation on coal seam gas development, saying the government has not listened to them.

The farmers' group will hold a protest outside state parliament in Sydney on Tuesday, which it says will attract thousands of people angry about the government's approach to controversial coal seam gas exploration.

Farmers and environmentalists are upset at the O'Farrell government's draft regional land use plan, which classified one million hectares of the New England North West and 400,000 hectares of the Upper Hunter as high-value agricultural land.

But major mining and exploration - including coal seam gas proposals - will not be banned in areas set aside as prime agricultural land.

The farmers association said the government had failed to deliver on its election commitment to protect land and water resources by quarantining some areas from mining, saying the draft plan "pulled up short on delivery".

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard has accused farmers of an "unusual game of simply trying to stop anything".

"I think that is particularly unproductive, and it's reaching the stage where the farmers are becoming, through their association, almost irrelevant to the process," Mr Hazzard told ABC Radio.

"They should buy relevancy, and get back in there and take part in the process instead of just sniping from the sidelines."

NSW Farmers Association president Fiona Simson said she was shocked by Mr Hazzard's comments, and couldn't "understand why the government would attack the farmers".

"We have worked consistently with the [coalition] for the past three years in the development of their draft policy, which is one of the reasons we are so disappointed in what has actually come out of those negotiations, and one of the reasons why we have had to take such a strong stand," Ms Simson said.

"We have been fully engaged in the process, and we certainly want further meaningful negotiations to have the outcome that was firstly promised and secondly that the community expects of the government."

Ms Simson said while the consultation process had succeeded in getting stakeholders around the table, it had "failed in its outcome".

"We have certainly been spoken to, but we are not sure how well the government has listened," she said.

She accused the government of not understanding just how upset landholders are with the draft plan.

"We have had to book extra buses to bring people down on Tuesday," she said.

The NSW opposition said that by attacking farmers who did not agree with its land-use policy, the government had undermined the consultation process.

"Whether the planning minister likes it or not, the contribution of all stakeholders needs to be considered," opposition primary industries and resources spokesman Steve Whan said in a statement.

"NSW cannot have a senior O'Farrell government minister attacking one side of the equation just because he doesn't like what they have to say."

AAP

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