After it came to light that the Chinese government controlled Shenhua Watermark Coal had been buying rural land for coal exploration in New South Wales the Gillard government is now planning to review land ownership across the region.
Shenhua Watermark Coal bought 43 farms over a two year period outside Gunnedah in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. The land grab, presumably for coal exploration and believed to have cost $300 million already, is located about 500 km north west of Sydney. The Chinese miner has subsequently sought exploration licenses from the New South Wales government. This has caused land prices to rise ten fold according to reports.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that as land transactions were overseen by state government it was difficult to monitor foreign ownership. She said that not all transactions triggered intervention by the Foreign Investment Review Board.
Ms Gillard is waiting for the facts before answering if present rules had loopholes for foreign investors. She said that it may surprise many but as a federal government we don't automatically have a complete set of information about what is happening with land holding in our nation.
Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten has been asked by the Prime Minster to complete the land ownership review. After the review is available Ms Gillard said that it would be used to inform a policy conversation. She added that the nation probably wanted to have policy action by the government on the issue if necessary.