Lismore councillor Mathew Scheibel doesn’t want to ‘shut the door’ on gas mining in the northern rivers region.
That may be so, but he’s no doubt feeling a little disappointed after last night’s Lismore City Council meeting.
His was the lone voice speaking up for the gas industry.
At last night’s Lismore City Council meeting Cr Scheibel spoke of touring gas fields where agricultural pursuits co-existed with the gas industry, where farmers were benefiting from an alternative revenue stream.
His fellow councillors disagreed.
Deputy mayor Simon Clough’s motion to write to the NSW premier Mike Baird requesting that the Lismore local government area be declared a ‘no-go zone’ for unconventional gas mining received ayes from all except Cr Scheibel.
‘It’s time for this council to say enough is enough,’ Cr Clough said.
In calling for petroleum exploration licences to be revoked, Cr Clough said local industries such as beef, sugar and dairying were not compatible with the gas industry.
‘It’s clear we need to act,’ he said.
‘Our sustainable rural industries need protection.’
Cr Clough also spoke of the impact on the local tourism industry, which employs 8,000 people, saying ‘people don’t come here to look at gasfields.’
He said any potential income from the gas industry was ‘short term’; gas could be exported overseas for perhaps 15 years with little local benefit.
‘We’re left with the residue. Our water polluted, our air polluted, our people sick from the poisoning of water and air.
‘It time for Lismore to declare itself a no-go zone for unconventional gas,’ he said.
‘How about making that all gas mining,’ Cr Gianpiero Battista suggested, and the other councillors agreed to the request.
Cr Isaac Smith said he had met with the Norco board and farmers a few weeks ago and they saw gas as ‘being the biggest most negative factor that could change the industry in the region’.
The Lismore decision to write to the premier follows a similar motion from the Ballina Shire Council recently, and comes as Byron Shire Council is set to discuss a similar motion tomorrow.
Voting in favour at Lismore were mayor Jenny Dowell, Simon Clough, Gianpero Battista, Glenys Ritchie, Ray Houston, Isaac Smith, Greg Bennett and Vanessa Ekins.
Crs Graham Meinke and Neil Marks were absent.