With the state government poised to announce its acceptance of the chief scientist’s report into CSG, northern NSW farmers are warning that attempts to buy them off with compensation packages won’t work.
And many are worried that if the proposed packages target only those landholders whose properties are used for gas wells, it will further exacerbate the inequalities already felt in rural areas that have been swallowed up by gasfields.
The state government was set to announce its response to chief scientist Mary O’Kane’s report into the industry yesterday but was pre-empted by an article in the Daily Telegraph, which reportedly angered some National Party backbenchers who have been opposing the industry in their areas.
A joint party room meeting is scheduled for today ahead of the delayed announcement.
Peter and Meg Nielsen of Bentley are among those rejecting the scheme. The couple were staunch supporters of the Bentley blockade and are calling for Metgasco’s CSG licence over their area to be cancelled.
‘We’re very angered by this approach,’ Ms Nielsen told Echonetdaily.
‘It’s going to be extremely divisive for the community and it’s not going to address in any way the issues of water’ she said.
‘All our creeks and dams on our farms are fed by springs and we simply cannot have any interference with our water supply.
‘The green belt is so essential for the future of Australian food production and the government us just playing games.
‘The chief scientist made it very clear in her report that fracking effects the pressurisation of the groundwater, that it was opening up pathways that allowed the water to migrate so it’s no longer available for fresh water supply.
‘Even Rick Wilkinson from APPEA has accepted that fracking depressurises aquifers, lowers the water table and lowers the water pressure of springs. All the water supply here is reliant on springs that flow into creeks and dams. There can be no food production if the water supply is interfered with,’ Ms Neilsen said.
She added local farmers had made ‘numerous visits to governments in Sydney and to our own local representatives’ over the issue.
‘Most of them perfectly well understand that this area is completely inappropriate for CSG. There are 42 different risk factors that directly apply to fracking. We are very disturbed that the government is using a form of bribery to make farmers complicit in the destruction of our own livelihoods and futures.’
‘Individual farmers who are just hanging on, who are struggling with drought, are going to be tempted by the money,’ Ms Neilsen said.
Kyogle grazier Don Durrant concurs.
Money won’t fix it
‘Many of us here in the Richmond Valley are increasingly dependent on underground water. If that water is contaminated or the creeks and dams that rely on underground water are affected, money is just not going to fix that,’ Mr Durrant said.
Gloucester farmers are also concerned about their livelihoods and the future value of their land if CSG is allowed to go ahead there.
Ed Robinson has a 400-acre beef cattle farm just a few hundred metres from where AGL is currently fracking. The property has double frontage to the river and 80 acres of his property are flood plains.
‘Let’s see the devil in the detail of the policy. Too many times has this government lied to us. As a farmer, I want any new laws to address the risks of coal and gas mining to water, particularly the cumulative impacts,’ said Robinson.
‘Water and rivers are a significant feature of my property and nobody can tell me what’s going to happen if it’s fracked for coal seam gas, particularly in dry times. When we ask the government and AGL about the impacts of coal seam gas on water, their answer is “I don’t know”. Well that’s not good enough,’ he said.
Govt sided with industry
Greens candidate for Lismore and former Gasfields Free Northern Rivers, Adam Guise, is says he is ‘outraged that the government has sided with the gas industry and betrayed the northern rivers community in its response to the chief scientist’s report’.
‘Quite simply the government is trying to buy off the community. No amount of promised compensation will restore polluted farmland or fix poisoned aquifers. Monitoring and training gas workers will not protect our land and water, Mr Guise said’
‘It is disgraceful that the government forces the coal seam gas industry upon us when we just had 8000 people march through Lismore calling for cancellation of gas licences over the region.
‘Our government is clearly not listening to the community. As long time National Party MP Don Page now supports the community’s call for a Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, why doesn’t his National Party colleague Thomas George do the same?
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