Graham Bassett, Suffolk Park
Echonetdaily’s article (Council CSG stand ‘legal’, 8 August) needs some expansion and clarification. Not least because all Byron mayoral candidates in the September poll say they are against CSG mining in the shire.
CSG companies use council roads for seismic testing. The purpose of seismic testing is to extrapolate from the data acquired the likelihood of significant coal-seam deposits on land adjoining the road.
To stop seismic testing is to strike at the thin edge of the wedge. To stop seismic testing is to delay the threat to all landholders in the shire.
Under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 (NSW) and relevant case law on improvements, a council public road is an improvement. The Act is unambiguous. CSG companies can only explore for, or produce, gas on council land that is an improvement with council’s written consent.
Further, if council consents to use of the improvement, the CSG company must enter into an access agreement with the council landholder. Contrary to what was stated in the Echonetdaily article, and as the advice of law firm MaryLou Potts Pty Ltd makes clear, for exploration and production grants under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act, the CSG company must comply with these requirements whether or not the grant is a State Significant Development.
Unlike so much of planning law, the company cannot run to the minister for approval to avoid local obligations. Disputes over access to improvements are ultimately determined by the Land and Environment Court, which has the last say on this matter.
Negotiating an access agreement is just the beginning of the grief a landholder can give to a CSG company. For ideas on how to fight access, download ‘100 Legal Ideas for NSW Landholders When the CSG Company Comes Knocking’, behind the ‘Coal-Seam Gas’ link at grahambassett.com. No ‘au’, but it still hyperlinks if you enter the country code out of habit.
The anti-CSG movement is very successful in NSW. CSG companies have only 40 agreements by consent to access land in this state, if that many. As yet, they have not used the Land and Environment Court to force access agreements. In this state, they have not been able to work under the radar and destroy agricultural land and the health of regional communities as at Chinchilla and other places in Queensland.
Our new councillors should use their powers as landholders to make sure it stays that way in the Byron Shire.