Coal seam gas activists will meet federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane today, less than 24 hours after a new survey reveals overwhelming opposition to the activity in its heartland of the Richmond Valley.
The survey, conducted by Southern Cross University, questioned 605 residents at polling booths in the electorate on the day of the federal election.
It found 65 per cent of respondents were opposed to CSG mining and 18 per cent were undecided, leaving just 17 per cent supporting the activity.
Researcher Hanabeth Luke said the poll used the same wording as the one conducted by Lismore City Council at the state election last year.
She added that a smaller sample conducted simultaneously in Lismore drew a similar result to the council poll, showing 85 per cent opposition.
A previous phone poll conducted by Richmond Valley Council claimed 70 per cent of respondents supported CSG, ‘if it could be scientifically proven to be safe and increase employment’, but its wording and methodology were considered unscientific.
Ms Luke said that the SCU researchers had been trained to obtain a genuine cross-section of responses and were instructed not to focus on any one age group or lifestyle.
She added that while support for CSG was generally stronger in urban polling booths, even this was not across the board.
‘There was a huge amount of variation across the booths. We had the strongest Yes vote at Casino West Public School but very close by at Casino High School the strongest No, with 80 per cent. So it’s varied enormously, even within Casino,’ she told ABC North Coast.
In the wake of the poll results, anti-CSG group Lock the Gate (LTG) has called on Metgasco to ‘develop an exit strategy’ for its activity in the northern rivers.
LTG spokesperson Ian Gaillard described the new data as ‘a major blow to Metgasco’s plans to recommence its exploration activities in the northern rivers and the push by the federal industry minister to forge ahead with unconventional gas development in NSW’.
‘This region has shown that it does not want this unsafe and unnecessary industry and we have shown that people of all political persuasions are prepared to act to keep it out,’ he added.
‘The minister has convened a meeting seeking a way forward for the gas industry in the northern rivers and we would be more than happy to work together to find an exit strategy by which Metgasco can minimise its losses.’
Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson yesterday admitted to the East Coast Gas Outlook Conference that ‘improving community support’ was one of the greatest challenges facing the company.
Parliament to debate
Meanwhile, NSW state parliament is set to debate the subject of CSG on October 31 after a petition circulating the northern rivers garnered 12,000 signatures opposing the industry.
And federal Richmond MP Justine Elliot has called on local National Party MPs to speak out on the subject in parliament.
Ms Elliot, whose office collected the petition, said, ‘Geoff Provest, Don Page, Thomas George, and Chris Gulaptis have nowhere left to hide. They must stand up and speak in this debate.
‘The biggest threat to our way of life is the National Party’s pro-CSG, drilling, fracking and expansion agenda,’ she added.
‘Our community was forced to present this petition because the National Party MPs are refusing to listen to locals. My position is very clear. I stand with the community and oppose harmful CSG mining on the north coast.’