The group CSG Free Lismore conducted a survey of council candidates regarding their positions on coal-seam gas mining in the LGA and across the northern rivers.
The organisation reports that groups showing the highest demonstrated commitment to anti-CSG activities are Our Sustainable Future headed by Simon Clough and The Greens under Vanessa Ekins. They are closely followed by Country Labor led by Jenny Dowell, Girls in Government headed by Kate Olivieri, and David Yarnall’s group. Each of these groups indicate that they do not support CSG mining at all, now or in the future, and will act to prevent it.
Graham Meineke, Gianpiero Battista, Neil Marks and Peter Larson see CSG mining and licensing as a state-government issue rather than a matter for local council.
The group was disappointed that a number of candidates chose not to participate in the survey. The entire New Generation Leaders team headed by Matthew Schreiber, all candidates from For the Love of Lismore (except Gianpiero Battista), and all the remaining candidates from Back to Business under Graham Meineke failed to respond to the questionnaire.
Meineke, Marks and Larson echoed the current state-government position that revoking exploration licences will lead to compensation payouts to mining companies.
CSG Free Lismore says that this may not be the case, as Section 22(5) of the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 explicitly states: ‘No compensation is payable by the Crown for or in respect of the cancellation of, or a suspension of operations under, a petroleum title.’ (See http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/pa1991224/s22.html.)
Section 22 provides a number of grounds for revoking licences, particularly if licence conditions have been contravened, which almost all have been in our area.
Greg Bennett and the Ratepayers Association team highlight risks to aquifers, to organic farming, and the lack of research into impacts. They demand the right for landowners to say No to CSG on their land, as does Marks. While Mr Bennett sees a case for annulment of the Arrow PEL 445 covering Lismore he says that protection of other areas, including the Metgasco PEL 16 covering Casino, is less likely. Another aspect of the property rights argument is that it potentially allows for mining if aquifer protection is addressed. Aquifer protection is highly problematic and difficult to manage. This also fails to take into account impacts on tourism and existing agricultural activities.
The group concluded, ‘while it is clear that many candidates understand the importance of this issue to the community’ it was disappointing that so many ‘have not chosen to engage with the public through this process’.