Ballina Shire Council (BSC) will urge the state government to include the villages of Newrybar and Tintenbar in the proposed coal-seam gas (CSG) exclusion zones.
It has also sent a strong message that indicates BSC does not want CSG mining anywhere in the shire in its submission, which also calls for more comprehensive identification of state and regionally significant farmland.
Council had previously excluded the villages from the new R5 zoning for large lot residential areas when preparing the Ballina Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2012, but now believes they’re of a scale and character consistent with the R5 zone exclusions.
Cr Sue Meehan said the current lack of protection for the villages was an ‘unintended consequence of us not using the R5 zoning throughout our LEP’, while Cr Sharon Cadwallader said she did not know how the villages were left out, but it was an important issue for the two communities.
Council’s strategic and community services manager Steve Barnier confirmed that ‘had council applied the R5 zoning to the villages they would receive protection.’
Mr Barnier added that ‘extra protection for state significant farmland is included in the CSG policy but not the regionally significant farmland, so this needs to be reviewed.’
Mayor David Wright said he wished council could ‘put a two-kilometre exclusion zone around the edges of the shire and I am certain that Lismore and Byron would like to do the same.’
Cr Wright said there was no indication that mining companies wanted to come to Ballina but council had to stay ‘proactive in promoting our position’.
Cr Wright said that councillors could in the future put up a notice of motion to change the zoning of the villages to R5.
Cr Jeff Johnson shared with council the feedback from a recent visit by a northern rivers delegation to Canberra to visit federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane MP about the concerns of CSG in the region.
‘All reports are that the minister is very pro-CSG and is wanting to do all he can to assist the industry,’ Cr Johnson said.
Cr (Jeff) Johnson said the CSG industry in the northern rivers would have flow on effects for Ballina Shire.
‘We need to stand together with our neighbouring councils and make this area a no go zone,’ Cr (Jeff) Johnson said, ‘given our aquifers and given the state and regionally significant farmland.
‘Although I support this recommendation I don’t feel it is strong enough.’
Cr Keith Williams suggested that a further point be added to the recommendation.
‘We should note that BSC does not support CSG mining anywhere in the shire,’ Cr Williams said.
Deputy mayor Ben Smith said the state’s current CSG policy was an improvement on what existed previously.
‘From Ballina’s point of view we are covered,’ he said, ‘but I do feel for everyone else.’
Councillors voted unanimously for the submission.