Lismore MP Thomas George has ‘demanded’ that the NSW Government block the sale of the PEL 445 CSG exploration licence and buy the licence back.
But Greens candidate Adam Guise described the demand as ‘a con’ coming eight days before the election, while the Gasfield Free Northern Rivers group said it was an empty promise.
On Friday it was announced that a re-elected Baird government would extend its buy-back of CSG licences until 30 June 2015 and would not approve the transfer of any titles until all potential buy-back negotiations had been exhausted.
AJ Lucas is seeking to buy PEL 445, which covers parts of Lismore, Kyogle, and the Richmond and Clarence valleys.
‘This extension is welcome but clearly does not go far enough,’ Mr George said.
‘The PEL 445 licence covers the majority of the Lismore electorate and the community wants it gone for good.’
‘The people of Lismore have continually made it clear to me that they do not want CSG here.
‘When I became aware this PEL 445 was being transferred I was shocked and disappointed.
‘The first thing I did was contact the resources minister and deputy premier and demand the government immediately block the sale of PEL 445 and buy back this licence.
‘The former Labor government issued every single one of the seven CSG exploration licences on the north coast with no protections in place for our water, land and environment.’
Deputy premier and Nationals leader Troy Grant said Mr George had delivered his message loud and clear that the Lismore community does not want CSG.
Greens candidate Adam Guise was critical of the announcement.
‘If Thomas George was really representing his electorate he would have called for the cancellation of these licenses years ago, not a con ‘buyback’ 8 days from polling day,’ Mr Guise said.
‘The only public record of Thomas George commenting on coal seam gas in parliament was of him welcoming Metgasco to the Northern Rivers.
‘This sham announcement simply won’t wash with our community.
‘We should not be wasting taxpayers’ money on license buybacks.
‘All coal seam gas licences, including Metgasco’s, can be cancelled with no compensation payable.’
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesman Dean Draper described the announcement as ‘more empty promises, more smoke and mirrors’.
‘There is still time for the Liberal-National Government to keep faith with the people of the northern rivers, and match promises by the Greens and the Labor Party to make our region off-limits to gas mining.
‘Anything less than that is a betrayal of the will of the people, which is plainly and overwhlemingly in favour of a gasfield free northern rivers.
‘This petroleum licence was renewed by the government just two weeks after they released their Gas Plan late last year. They missed the opportunity then to do what their constituents demand, and they’re missing it again now.
‘Even if the owners of PEL 445 licence agree to a buy back, allowing the industry to get a foothold anywhere in the northern rivers will put the entire region at risk as they expand their network and develop infrastructure to move the industry forward in the future.
‘The boundary of Metgasco’s PEL 16 is just 14 kilometres outside of Lismore, and Metgasco have clearly stated that they want to resume activities immediately if the outcome of the pending court case finds in their favour.
‘The role of government is to act in the public interest.
‘They have the power to make the northern rivers gasfield free but they just won’t do it. It’s glaringly obvious that they plan to push ahead with this industry and they are refusing to respond to the will of the people.’