An open letter to planning minister Brad Hazzard: thank you for your courageous entry to and attendance at what must have been a very daunting event in Lismore last Wednesday. I was one of the participants and was surprised by the depth of feeling on show. I appreciate that a less impassioned community meeting might have provided a more appropriate environment in which you, Mr George, and the other senior public servants could present your case; however, I believe you have underestimated the anger surrounding CSG exploration in this and other communities throughout NSW. As the local Indigenous representatives stated at the meeting, this is our Country. Not real estate, not an industrial site, not a place for digging, drilling, and fracking, but a place where our souls reside.
The angry people at the meeting were people who feel that their concerns are not being heard, their legal rights have been trashed, that our democracy is a joke. Many of those in attendance were people who voted for the O’Farrell government believing that you would bring an end to coal-seam gas exploration and mining.
The idea that a drilling rig and its crew can gain access to my property and change completely and forever my relationship with this place is an extraordinary and shocking violation. What you, Mr George and your department heads at the table – all of whom seemed less than expert in their field – fail to understand is that these are places where we have invested time, money, love, hard work, commitment and dedication, in my case regenerating a property ruined by decades of cattle production. Your government and Byron Shire Council have zoned my property HCV (High Conservation Value, with protected riparian areas and E2 and E3 zones), restricting what it is I can and cannot do here.
I accept those restrictions as being in the best interests of myself and my community… only to have you tell me that now a mining company can come onto the place and put at risk all that lies on and under my land, using practices that are known to poison, pollute, and contribute climate change. Why would anyone in your position allow the incredibly risky CSG industry to perpetrate its dodgy practices in one of the most productive, fertile green spaces in Australia? Particularly given that NSW has so many alternative, sustainable, non-polluting forms of energy production, your support of CSG beggars belief.
Mr Hazzard, please don’t let the shortsighted, greedy bully boys in the top end of town get away with their nefarious practices. As you have witnessed, many of us in the northern rivers don’t care for the economic ‘benefits’ of mining more fossil fuels at the expense of our environment, our Country, our homes. You were a science teacher once, and have been shadow minister for the environment; you must know that ‘the science is in’ on climate change and sustainable energy. Put a stop to the insidious CSG industry and go down in history as a politician with the foresight, courage and vision to make Australia a leader in clean and green energy technology that will help to repair and regenerate our damaged ecosystem.
Once again, I thank you and respect greatly your efforts on Wednesday in what must have been very trying circumstances.