Tweed and Ballina councils have moved again to lock out coal-seam gas (CSG) mining and reaffirmed their stand against the industry in the wake of the state government giving it the green light last month.
Ballina Shire Council is going one step further and considering banning the use of local roads and access to land under its control.
The moves follow widespread protests after the state announced its CSG policy only days after last month’s local-government elections.
A protest rally and march in Murwillumbah earlier this month drew over 4,000 people, and many northern rivers communities have vowed to stay CSG-free.
Ballina Greens Cr Jeff Johnson in his motion called on government MPs to revoke all CSG licences in the region and to declare Ballina Shire CSG free, as well as reaffirming its support for a recent moratorium on CSG mining ‘due to the unacceptable risks it poses to agricultural land, local water aquifers and rural communities’.
But he said he was disappointed that a few councillors baulked at the move to close council roads and land to the industry and wanted further information ‘before taking this next step’. That forced a change to his motion to ask staff simply to provide information on banning roads and access to land.
‘CSG is the single biggest threat to our agricultural and tourism industries and councillors who say they are not aware of the issues surrounding CSG need to attend an information session or do some research,’ Cr Johnson said.
‘You would think with all the media reports, public meetings, YouTube videos etc that councillors would have taken an interest in this important issue facing our region and sought out information for themselves.’
Crs Robyn Hordern and Paul Worth voted against the motion.
Tweed councillors, except the National Party’s Cr Phil Youngblutt, backed mayor Barry Longland’s motion reaffirming council’s recent moratorium on CSG in the shire and to declare the Tweed CSG free.
Cr Longland said most of the shire was covered by petroleum exploration licences and ‘some areas in the hinterland are under threat’.
He said that most councillors also had expressed their strong position against CSG at the last council election.
Cr Youngblutt said he agreed with a moratorium on CSG ‘but the rest is political posturing’. But Cr Milne said if Cr Youngblutt was ‘serious about CSG’ he would support addressing the issue at various levels.
She said council should do all in its power, including that over local roads, to stop CSG in the shire, but Cr Youngblutt said ‘this area is totally unsuitable for CSG and we have no worries’.
Both Tweed and Ballina councils will make submissions to the government’s white paper on reform of the planning system to delegate powers to local government to deal with development applications for CSG mining.