Brunswick Heads residents display their solidarity on the village’s footbridge on Saturday. Brunswick Heads has become the latest town to join the many CSG Free Communities on the north coast. Photo Eve Jeffery
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson was presented with scrolls by locals from almost every street in Brunswick Heads declaring their road ‘gasfield free’ during an event in the town on Saturday.
Brunswick is the latest town on the north coast to make the declaration and send a message to governments and the CSG industry that its residents are strongly opposed to any CSG exploration or mining in the area.
A recent survey of Brunswick Heads found 93 per cent of residents voted for their town to be gasfield free.
The event included speeches and a concert featuring local artists.
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson told the crowd the event had brought many neighbours together who had never met before and was about ‘communities coming together and articulating what they wanted as a whole’.
Cr Richardson said he had no faith the CSG companies were ‘going to walk away’ from exploiting CSG on the north coast and it was vital for communities to show their opposition to the industry in the leadup to September’s federal election.
He said it was a ‘clear choice’ between the ‘polluting dinosaur fossil-fuel energy industry supported by governments with no courage or vision’ and communities which understood renewable energy sources such as solar and wind farms were ‘the way to go for the future’.
Cr Richardson said the CSG Free Communities events and declarations of the past year on the north coast had demonstrated governments had ‘no mandate’ for supporting polluting energy sources such as CSG.
He said he would present the CSG petitions from local towns to local government minister Don Page ‘to let him know what communities in his electorate wanted’.
Meanwhile, Mullumbimby will declare its gasfield-free status on Friday June 14 at the Mullum Farmers Markets at the town’s showground at 9am and Ocean Shores will declare on June 8 at its public school from 2pm.
Byron Bay, Myocum/Tyagarah and Bangalow are still being surveyed, and volunteers are still needed. For more visit www.csgfreebyronshire.org.
Despite the coal seem industry withdrawing its presence in the northern rivers after public outrage, there are still fears that the industry could become active later as mining licences have not been withdrawn.
The Aboriginal Land Council (ALC) along with Dart Energy both hold licences for the region. The ALC has yet to respond to Byron Council over its intentions to mine or on-sell its licence for the area.
The issue is heating up statewide after a report by Ben Cubby in last Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald revealed NSW energy minister Chris Hartcher tried to approve Metgasco’s coal seam gas drilling in the Lismore area before all the conditions had been met.
In an email exchange obtained under freedom of information laws, SMH quotes Mr Hartcher’s aide as saying to the state energy department last August, ‘The minister is keen to approve this… I appreciate the department will still want to work on the conditions but if the minister can approve the offer then I imagine the conditions can be worked on.’
And at the federal level, Labor MP Justine Elliot launched a blistering attack on Nationals’ Richmond candidate Matthew Fraser and his party’s CSG policy in parliament last week. Claiming the region’s upcoming election ‘is a referendum on CSG mining on the north coast,’ she also had a swipe at the coalition’s plans to scrap the mining tax.
‘Removing carbon pricing is a green light for CSG mining,’ Mrs Elliot told Echonetdaily.
‘The National Party candidate for Richmond, Matthew Fraser, has stated he fully supports Tony Abbott’s plan to repeal carbon pricing (the carbon tax). Repealing carbon pricing and removing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation means that renewable industries will be harmed under a Liberal/National government. ’
She also mentioned the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013, which will be debated in the upper house on July 17. It aims to enable groundwater to act as trigger to stop CSG activities. Federally, the Nationals say they will oppose the bill.
Additionally, Mrs Elliot and fellow Labor MP Janelle Saffin (Page), are collating signatures to petition the NSW Liberal/National government to make the north coast CSG free.
A total of 10,000 are needed to be tabled in parliament, and the petition can be found at http://bit.ly/11auQmy.
But Mr Fraser has defended his position on CSG, telling Echonetdaily, ‘I do not support harmful CSG mining in Richmond, NSW and Australia’, but he would not be drawn on whether the industry should be expanded generally.