The state government is waiting to consider a report from the Office of Coal Seam Gas (OSCG) on whether it should lift the suspension of Metgasco’s drilling licence for Bentley, just outside Lismore.
And while anti-gas protesters were hoping to hear the result today, a spokesperson for NSW resources minister Anthony Roberts told Echonetdaily the announcement would be made public as soon as the government and Metgasco have been informed.
‘Tonight the office of coal seam gas through its director will release its determination of the suspension and what will occur from then and the minister’s office will make an announcement,’ he said.
‘A media briefing will most likely take place in the morning.’
The announcement will follow a meeting of the Richmond Valley Council last night at which councillors voted unanimously to revisit the council’s ‘positioning statement’ on coal seam gas, and to voice its opposition to any form of fracking within its local government area.
Having had mining company Metgasco based in Casino for a number of years, Richmond Valley Council earlier this year had declared ‘neutrality’, taking the position that the mining industry was a state government responsibility.
It was becoming increasingly isolated on the issue as Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Tweed councils have all sent letters to premier Mike Baird, ministers and local MPs asking that the region, or their local government area, be declared gas-free.
And while not going that far, Cr Robert Mustow brought the issue to the table with a notice of motion.
“I am aware there are many different views. Many are against the industry, some don’t want fracking and some do want gas exploration.
Cr Mustow said the gas industry was still a matter for the state government to regulate, but the recent suspension of Metgasco’s drilling licence and the views of a range of stakeholders warranted a review of the council’s position.
‘We can’t stop it or start it … it comes down to the minister and the state government, he said.
‘This motion will no doubt be of concern to industry, not to have fracking in the area, but I still think the industry is entitled to come and put its position on fracking so council can get information.
‘It doesn’t hurt to have knowledge for the future.’
Cr Sandra Humphrys said it ‘hasn’t been easy being a leader in our community with the gas issue’.
It has to be acknowledged that there are significant number of people who support the industry and economic benefit. I’m not one of those, but we can’t ignore that those people exist.’
She said it was apparent however that the majority of communities in the area do not want CSG ‘and I don’t want Richmond Valley to be in isolation’.
She said a recent vote at a gathering of 800 mayors and councilors had gone against banning CSG.
‘Maybe the state government should limit licences to those communities who demonstrate an unwavering desire to have the industry,” she said.
Cr Daniel Simpson said there was a perception that Richmond Valley was a supporter of the industry.
‘We’ve never supported gas. And while some here in the gallery may perceive that we have, we’ve never supported gas,’ he said.
Cr Col Sullivan said he had no objection to the motion but had real concerns about councillors changing their minds.
Cr Mustow responded: We’re not changing our minds … we’ve never supported it’.
‘I think the community is entitled to know where we stand.’
The council will consider the matter again at its August meeting.