Lismore City Council will conduct a poll during the September council elections to seek community views on coal-seam gas exploration and mining.
The resolution was taken at its meeting on Tuesday night, with councillors voting 6-5 to support it. Mayor Jenny Dowell described the issue as ‘one of the most significant community discussions of our generation’.
The council is now urging other NOROC member councils to follow suit on local government election day, September 8.
The Australian Electoral Commission has quoted approximately $42,000 to run the poll on behalf of the council but Cr Dowell believes this can be reduced to around $10,000.
The mayor defended the expenditure, saying ‘the local government elections present us with an opportunity to conduct a community-wide poll and gain a statistically valid indication of what this community’s honestly held views are about the Coal Seam Gas industry.
But industry figures have already come out attacking the move.
Peter Henderson, head of CSG miner Metgasco told local media, ‘ratepayers are entitled to ask… is spending up to $40,000 the best use of our money?’
And Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association spokesperson Rick Wilkinson, said that the outcome of the poll could be influenced by the wording of the question.
‘They’ve got to take great care over… the questions they ask and just make sure that there’s no natural bias in there,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
The council has requested its staff come up with a form of wording for the yes/no poll, which will be put to council for approval at its next meeting.
Cr Dowell said, ‘I think I have a good idea of the community’s views on this issue however without a poll such as this, we can’t be certain. This poll will ensure we have a thorough and documented understanding.’
She added that the information could be used in the regional land use planning process to provide feedback on what land uses the Lismore community considers to be appropriate.
The resolution requests Lismore Council, ‘conducts a poll in conjunction with the local government elections to determine community support for a ban on Coal Seam Gas exploration and mining in our Local Government Area; informs the Division of Local Government, the Local Government and Shires Associations and NOROC Councils of this intention; suggests to NOROC Councils that each member Council might like to consider a similar poll and; requests staff to prepare a report on the preferred wording for a poll question and the information for both Yes and No cases.