Just weeks after the release of the state government’s Upper House inquiry into coal-seam gas, and days after the 7,000 people rallied in Lismore against the controversial mining practice, NSW resources minister Chris Hartcher has effectively given the industry the green light in the state.
Speaking at a conference of gas lobby group Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) in Adelaide, Mr Hartcher emphasised to miners his support for the expansion of the industry in NSW.
He also raised the concept of ‘standardised land access agreements’, which he said ‘will be vital to achieving a balanced approach to private land access and will ensure certainty for both landholders and titleholders’.
‘We are also looking at implementing greater transparency surrounding land-access arrangements and compensation payments,’ he said.
‘It’s important that farmers have access to as much information as possible about the market rate for land access and exploration activities given that many landholders across the state are voluntarily entering into access agreements.’
Tweed-based campaigner Michael McNamara, speaking on behalf of Lock the Gate, Tweed, said, ‘Mr Hartcher is so gung-ho to develop the coal-seam gas industry in NSW that he does not even have the courtesy to wait for the outcomes of the community submissions on the draft Strategic Regional Land Use Plans (SRLUPs).’
‘The community is also left wondering if this represents the government’s response to the recently released report of the Upper House inquiry into the industry, which called for a moratorium on the issuing of any new licences.
‘Tweed Shire residents who travelled to Lismore at the weekend to join with other communities from across the northern rivers are particularly disappointed at this blatant disregard for community views.
‘Mr Hartcher’s statement makes a mockery of comments made by Ballina MP Don Page that the message from the 7,000-strong rally in Lismore at the weekend “will be heard in Macquarie Street”.
‘Mr Hartcher has obviously not heard the voices of those many community members who, as Don Page acknowledged, “don’t want anything to do with coal-seam gas”.’
While speaking to the miners Mr Hartcher also referred to having to ‘import’ gas from other states, a concept not seen in this country since federation wiped out colonial trade barriers at the turn of last century.
‘Since the beginning of this year, 20 per cent of the state’s gas usage has been supplied by coal-seam gas from Queensland via the Moomba to Sydney pipeline and AGL’s Camden operations,’ Mr Hartcher said.
‘While the Camden facility – in operation since 2004 – is currently producing seven per cent of NSW gas needs, we remain heavily dependent upon declining import [sic] reserves meaning domestic [NSW] production is crucial to ensuring security of supply,’ he opined.
The Lock the Gate Alliance submission to the NSW Government’s Strategic Regional Land Use Policy has called for communities to be given a veto right over exploration, mining and gas production in their regions.
Lock the Gate President Drew Hutton said, ‘communities should have a right to say no to mining and gas production’.
‘The key problem with the regional land use plans is that communities are still left out of the decision-making process. Agricultural regions and tourist towns are having their long-term economic futures put at risk by the “mining at all costs” decisions being made by state governments.
‘This government’s current plans are simply a framework to allow mining anywhere in NSW. There is not a single area that a family, a farmer or another business operator can move without the chance of an exploration licence being issued and future mining being permitted.
‘More than 15,000 people have rallied against these plans in Sydney and the Northern Rivers and they are fed up with telling governments the same thing – they want mining ruled out in productive agricultural areas, in areas of high biodiversity value, in closely settled areas and in our water catchments. The way to protect these community assets is to give communities the right to say no to mining and gas developments.