Resources minister Chris Hartcher yesterday announced the state has appointed a government-funded coal-seam gas community liaison officer, who will be based in Casino following lobbying from the local Nationals MP and Richmond Valley Council (RVC).
Mr Hartcher agreed to the position being based in Casino at a meeting yesterday with Nationals Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Richmond Valley mayor Ernie Bennett.
The role would ensure ‘ready access to factual information about the coal-seam gas industry,’ Mr Hartcher said.
But RVC’s position on what exactly constitutes factual information has come under fire from a prominent council watcher, who claims it has hired a market research company to elicit pro-CSG responses from residents.
The survey, being conducted by Micromex, asks residents to share their views about a number of local government issues, asking respondents how strongly they rate them and what they think about council’s performance in delivering them.
However Dr Richard Gates, who took the survey, told Echonetdaily that a question on coal-seam gas ‘appeared to be loaded’.
‘If I remember correctly I was asked something along the lines of: ‘if it was shown scientifically that there was no problem with coal-seam gas would you support CSG?”
‘This is not a neutral question,’ he said. ‘It’s qualified.
‘Many people might be inclined to answer ‘yes’ because science would, in these circumstances, be seen to be giving support for the industry.
‘The problem then comes that the qualifier could be dropped so that those using the data could easily say: “A question asked by Richmond Valley Council about support for coal-seam gas in an independent survey showed that 79 per cent of respondents said yes”. No mention of the qualifier. This would be quite misleading.
‘A question about support for CSG should have been asked without the qualifiers: Do you support the CSG industry for Richmond Valley Council ? Yes or No? If Yes, what are your reasons for supporting the industry? If No, what are your reasons for not supporting the industry and what additional information would you need to get for you to change your opinion?
One of Mr Hartcher’s statements may be seen to bear out Dr Gates’s concerns
‘Richmond Valley Council recognises the many benefits that can be derived from the coal-seam gas industry, and views the development of local coal-seam gas reserves as vital to supporting economic growth and local employment,’ said yesterday.
The community liaison officer will commence in early March and will be available to meet with members of the community and organisations seeking information on coal-seam gas.