Coal seam gas (CSG) mining is set to become a major state election issue on the north coast next March following the latest war of words on the industry’s bid to get a foothold in the region.
Yesterday, the CSG industry lobby group attacked NSW Labor’s move to declare the NSW north coast CSG free if it wins government next year.
But Labor responded by saying the coalition, if it retains power, plans to expand CSG mining on the north coast.
The latest political stoush on the CSG issue has been welcomed by campaigners against the industry who say they hope it does become a major election issue.
At the recent Labor state conference, delegates backed a ban on CSG mining in the northern rivers region covering the Lismore, Ballina, Clarence and Tweed state electorates.
The motion followed the NSW government’s suspension in May of Metgasco’s licence to drill at Bentley, just outside Lismore.
Yesterday, the Australian Petroleum Producers and Exporters Association (APPEA) attacked what it claimed was ‘Labor’s political opportunism’, after NSW premier Mike Baird ruled out the coalition supporting a ban on CSG mining such as that proposed by Labor.
APPEA director Michael Bradley told media Labor should not use the issue for a political benefit, but base any regulation of the industry on science and not on fear campaigns.
Mr Bradley told ABC radio that tourism and other rural-based industries could co-exist with CSG exploration and mining.
‘Regulation of any industry should be geared toward the management of risks, not pandering to fear campaigns or to accentuate fear in their community,’ he said.
CSG-Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Boudicca Cerese said she hoped Labor’s move would help make CSG a major election issue in the region which overwhelmingly opposed the industry.
Greens NSW candidate Adam Guise welcomed the NSW Labor Party’s policy shift but pointed out that the Greens had been opposing GSG for years.
Labor candidate for Tweed Ron Goodman said yesterday ‘a vote for the pro-gas Nationals will be a vote to expand CSG mining’.
Mr Goodman said this was confirmed by a report in The Australian this week in which Mr Baird said he was more interested in having a ‘consistent’ position on CSG mining rather than enforcing CSG bans.
‘This means that the National Party will go to the state election with plans to expand CSG mining in our region,’ Mr Goodman said.
The Metgasco suspension came just days before thousands of protesters were expected to form a blockade at the drill site. Up to 800 police officers had been detailed to enforce the mining operation.