Campaigners against coal seam gas (CSG) have praised Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis for opposing CSG exploration and drilling on the northern rivers in his first speech to parliament last week since re-election.
And they have called on his National Party colleague, Lismore MP Thomas George, who narrowly clung onto his seat in the March poll, to also voice opposition and ‘stand up for his community’.
But Mr George, who promised during the election campaign to push for the cancellation (buyback) of the petroleum exploration licence (PEL 445) covering his electorate, has stayed silent on the issue since Mr Gulaptis made his speech.
Gasfield Free Nothern Rivers (GFNR) says Mr Gulaptis had accurately represented the mood of his community and urged Mr George and other National Party MPs to do the same.
Mr George, whose electorate includes the hot spot of proposed Metgasco activity at Bentley, is yet to respond to an Echonetdaily request for comment.
In his speech, Mr Gulaptis said his government’s ‘Gas Plan’ had cut the CSG footprint across NSW through its buyback program but ‘still community opposition to CSG grows’.
‘I live in this community and I hear what a wide cross section of people say,’ Mr Gulaptis told parliament.
‘These are people from all walks of life, like the Knitting Nannas who sit outside my office every Tuesday afternoon, the famers who rely on the clean, green reputation we have in the Northern Rivers to market their produce, and just ordinary townsfolk who are concerned about the future for their grandkids,’ he said.
‘These are not extremists, just everyday people from my electorate. They are very fearful of the potential for long-term impacts on our water, our land, our livelihood, our health and our lifestyle that the CSG industry may have in my electorate of Clarence and in our beautiful Northern Rivers.
‘We live in a lifestyle region and we must protect the very essence that makes it such a wonderful place to live.’ Mr Gulaptis said.
The Grafton-based MP said he applauded his government’s action to suspend Metgasco’s drilling program at Bentley last year ‘and so did the people of the Northern Rivers’.
‘There is something very fundamentally wrong when 6,000 or 7,000 people are prepared to confront 1,000 police because they feel so concerned about the impacts of the CSG industry, that it is an industry which is incompatible with our traditional agricultural industries, that it is wrong for the Northern Rivers and that it is dangerous to our environment.
‘Confrontation of this magnitude is not the way we conduct business in any jurisdiction in Australia, nor is it acceptable or appropriate to conduct business like this in the electorate of Clarence.’
Mr Gulpartis also said her was ‘extremely disappointed’ by the decision of the Supreme Court of NSW to quash the government’s suspension of Metgasco’s drilling program at Bentley.
‘I believe the decision is wrong and it flies in the face of community sentiment. The community wants a gas field-free Northern Rivers. I support my community and I support this proposition.
‘I have urged the government to explore every opportunity to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court. Should this not be an option, then I firmly believe that the government has the capacity to deliver a gas field-free Northern Rivers through the NSW Gas Plan. I urge the government to investigate, as a matter of urgency, every option available to do so, starting with the Metgasco licence,’ Mr Gulaptis said.
(To see his full speech in Hansard, visit the Parliament of NSW website.)
GFNR coordinator Dean Draper said the northern rivers community had been ‘loud and clear in their call for to remain gasfield free’ and that Mr Gulaptis’s comments ‘shows he’s been listening’.
‘By calling upon the government to ban coal seam gas in the northern rivers and supporting his community, Chris is showing the way for the other Nationals MPs in the northern rivers,’ Mr Draper said.
‘We hope that Chris will continue to voice the concerns and wishes of his community in the future and will help the government to work towards a solution that will give the people of the northern rivers what they want, to be gasfield free.
‘We would like to see Thomas George following Chris’ lead and also stand up in parliament to support us and voice our opposition to coal seam gas.
‘We would like to see Thomas follow through with his promises before the elction to buyback PEL 445.
‘We hope all of the MPs in our region heed the recent call of Nationals federal MP Kevin Hogan to work together to remove the threat of unconventional gas mining in our region.
‘We know that Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith has already started work on our behalf by launching a bill to ban CSG across the state last week,’ Mr Draper said.