A group of northern rivers anti-CSG campaigners will meet with state MPs in Sydney next week to urge the NSW government to ‘finish the job’ and buy-out all remaining gas licences in the region.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers released a map this week showing there are still five large gas licences in the region covering an area greater than a million hectares in size in total.
And the Knitting Nannas of the Grafton Loop have also called for Metgasco’s expired licence over the Clarence to be cancelled by the Office of Coal Seam Gas.
The actions come as the Upper House is set to vote on a Bill next week that would ban CSG activities in the northern rivers.
The Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Prohibit Coal Seam Gas) Bill 2015 would allow the government to cancel existing licences without compensation and prohibit new licences being granted over all seven local government areas of the northern rivers, from the Tweed to the Clarence.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Dean Draper said that with the drilling suspension lifted on Metgasco earlier this year, ‘there’s effectively nothing to stop them from continuing their work on gasfields in our region right now’.
‘We still have five vast gas licences stretching across our region, covering an area four times the size of the Australian Capital Territory,’ Mr Draper said.
‘The end of September buyback deadline on gas licences looms, but our community has still not seen the action we need from the NSW government.
‘Our delegation to Sydney next week will meet with representatives from the Nationals, the Greens, the Christian Democrat Party and the Shooters and Fishers who could all play a role in the passing of CSG moratorium bill which would then go to the Lower House for a vote.’
The group has booked a room in Parliament House and will set up a display there to showcase the vast array of food production, natural wonders and tourism benefits of the northern rivers.
‘We’ll provide samples of local produce and have several landholders on hand to talk to parliamentarians about our special region and why it should be protected from invasive unconventional gas mining,’ Mr Draper said.
‘Our community deserves protection and have been loud and clear with their demands. Now is the time for the government step up and deliver those promises made before the election by local MPs and the deputy premier, Troy Grant.
‘We want them to cancel PEL 426, buyback all other licences in our region, and vote for the moratorium Bill in Parliament to permanently protect our region’ he said.
Meanwhile, the Greens are supporting Lock the Gate’s call for members of the public to get on the phones and email and demand their representatives vote for a gasfield free northern rivers.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith said she had been working on the legislation with Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham since the election ‘and now is the time for the Parliament to take the action the community wants and to make the northern rivers gasfield free’
The legislation will be voted on first in the Upper House where the Greens, Labor, Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters and Fishers are all needed for the bill to pass.
‘I’m really glad to see that Labor appears to be keeping its election promise and all the parties are working together to make this happen,’ Ms Smith said.
‘But I echo the call by Lock the Gate for people to get on the phone and email to members of the NSW Upper House to lock in their support’, she said.
‘If the legislation does pass the Upper House next week, I will be taking immediate steps to introduce the bill into the Legislative Assembly where the pressure will be on the Nationals to vote to protect land, water and the community or to again side with the mining industry and the Liberal Party.’