The far north coast could be explored for uranium under legislation passed by the state government last week.
The 26-year-old ban on uranium exploration was last week lifted when the legislation passed the Upper House, sparking an outcry from the Greens and Labor MPs who opposed it.
The controversial move came two weeks after the first anniversary of the world’s biggest nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan, which is still causing major problems.
Labor’s spokesman for the Tweed, MLC Walt Secord, told parliament that one of the areas nominated for exploration was the Clarence-Moreton basin (which includes the far north coast).
Mr Secord has called on north coast National Party MPs Don Page (Ballina), Geoff Provest (Tweed), Thomas George (Lismore) and Chris Gulaptis (Clarence) ‘to ensure that the unique quality of life on the north coast was protected from uranium exploration’.
In his speech against the bill, Mr Secord cited a corporate publication from the Sydney law firm Clayton Utz, which revealed possible areas for exploration.
He said the newsletter, entitled ‘Is the tide turning? NSW government proposes lifting ban on uranium exploration’, issued on March 1, identified parts of NSW ‘they think are ripe for potential uranium exploration’.
’The paper singled out the Murray Basin and the Mundi Mundi Plains near Broken Hill as well as the Clarence-Moreton basin, which is the far north coast of NSW, as potential sites for exploration,’ he said.?Mr Secord said the O’Farrell government did not have a mandate for uranium exploration as they had ruled it out before the 2011 state election, yet had ‘rammed through’ the legislation for it.
‘I have concerns about the prospect of uranium exploration in the pristine areas of the Tweed, Clarence and Lismore,’ he said.
‘In 1986, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the NSW parliament agreed that the potential release of toxic elements could contaminate large areas of land and pollute our rivers. They knew then, as Labor knows now, that there is still no failsafe way to transport and manage nuclear waste.
‘There is still no failsafe way to safeguard the health of workers, or the health of communities, from it.
‘In 26 years much has changed in NSW, but some things stay the same. Uranium mining is still a risk. It has the potential to damage our land and contaminate our river systems, and the people of NSW have strong concerns about it.’
Mr Secord said the move by the coalition was ‘a huge betrayal’ of the people of NSW who had not given them an electoral mandate to do so, and a ‘complete policy reversal’.
He said Mr O’Farrell in August last year ruled out repealing the ban yet in mid-2011 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that minister for resources and energy Chris Hartcher had met the chief executive of the Australian Uranium Association to discuss overturning it.?‘Shortly afterwards the Australian Uranium Association wrote to the minister formally asking him to make any necessary changes to permit uranium exploration and mining in NSW,’ he said.
Mr Hartcher recently told ABC Radio the proposed uranium exploration was ‘to build up a databank’.
‘That’s what you do. If the resource is there in commercial quantities then of course you will consider mining it,’ the minister said.
Mr Secord said exploration was ‘clearly the first step in the establishment of a uranium industry in NSW. Mining companies do not walk into a state and say, “We will spend millions and locate a resource and then do nothing with it”. Mining companies explore so they can mine.’
Separate legislation would be required to lift the NSW ban on uranium mining.