THE NSW government has been given a March election deadline to permanently protect The Drip gorge after news freehold title over the area was sold to a Chinese mining company for $2084.
NSW Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said his party was concerned mining-related corruption uncovered by the Independent Commission Against Corruption was just the tip of the iceberg, after details of the Labor government’s history on the Moolarben mine, and The Drip, were revealed on Saturday.
The community was right to question the previous government over special legislation passed in 2008 that benefited Moolarben after an adverse court decision that could have stopped the mine, he said.
It was also right to question a government program that allowed Moolarben to pay $1million to a private seller for a perpetual lease in 2006, which included The Drip, and convert the lease to freehold title in 2010 for $2084 without public input.
This was despite letters of concern from the community in 2008 about such a conversion, Mr Buckingham said.
A Department of Primary Industries spokesman said more than 10,000 NSW property owners were given the chance to convert perpetual leases to freehold title under the lease conversion program initiated in 2004.
The lease conversion offers were not put out to tender. Costs were calculated at 3per cent of the unimproved capital value of the land or according to government land records.
Bylong farmer Craig Shaw said the lease conversion sale of The Drip was an indictment on the Labor government, but the current government had shown it was also capable of unpublicised decisions that favoured mining companies.
In January, Colin and Julia Imrie, who own a property adjoining The Drip and Goulburn River National Park, wrote to the then premier Barry O’Farrell offering 10hectares of Goulburn River waterfront land to help protect the gorge by providing a land bridge.
While some government ministers and politicians appeared to be actively considering the proposal, Moolarben’s exploration licence was renewed, which extinguished the Imries’ offer.
‘‘There is a core section of the Department of Mineral Resources that’s been determined to do all it can to mine in, around and under The Drip gorge. That was most clear when Colin and Julia’s serious and magnificent offer was undermined, with no warning or publicity,’’ Mr Shaw said.