Tweed mayor Barry Longland has defended a decision not to poll voters at September’s local-government election to test their support for a ban on coal-seam gas exploration and mining in the shire as a waste of time and money.
Greens Cr Katie Milne had moved at the last council meeting for the Tweed to follow Lismore City Council’s recent lead by conducting such a poll to send a message to the state government, saying it was an ‘important tool to educate voters’ on the issue.
Cr Milne said even if the poll cost $40,000 as the Lismore poll was estimated to cost, it would be the ‘best investment the council made in terms of community consultation’.
But mayor Barry Longland, backed by a majority of councillors, shot the plan down saying Tweed council had already voted for a moratorium on CSG and it was wasteful to hold the poll just to ‘find out something we already know’.
Cr Longland said the Lismore area had more gas ‘possibilites’ and did not have the ‘environmental assets’ the Tweed had.
He said ‘it might be cute’ to take Lismore’s lead, but there were differences between the two shires, including the fact that councillors in Lismore were dividied on the issue.
Cr Milne said the state government won’t support local communities in trying to protect their land and water from CSG exploration and mining and most of Tweed faced the possibility of CSG exploration and mining ‘so all we have left is the power of the people’.
Cr Warren Polglase said polls were ‘not a true indicator of what people think’ and the Tweed poll could cost double that of Lismore’s because of a bigger population.
‘I’m dead against coal-seam gas and always have been because of agriculture but a poll won’t give us the outcome we’re looking for,’ Cr Polglase said.
He said $40,000 ‘could fill a few potholes’.
Cr Joan van Lieshout said the state government would determine whether mining went ahead ‘regardless of us’, so a poll would not help the shire’s case.
Only Cr Kevin Skinner backed Cr Milne’s move.
Meanwhile, a mass rally and ‘Rock the Gate’ concert on Saturday, May 12, at Riverside Park, Lismore, is expected to draw thousands of people from throughout the region, including the Tweed, with more than 20 regional anti-CSG organisations represented.