Opponents of coal seam gas mining are calling on Lismore MP Thomas George to explain why a major exploration licence is still active in the northern rivers region.
Thomas George made an eleventh-hour commitment prior to the election that PEL 445 would be bought back by the government, and he went on to win the election by a narrow margin.
But the NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts has announced that the government’s buyback scheme, which is part of the NSW Gas Plan, has now ended.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Elly Bird said that while Premier Mike Baird has confirmed that negotiations are continuing with Metgasco over its PEL 16, which covers Bentley, there has been no word on PEL 445.
PEL 445 covers Lismore, Kyogle, Nimbin, Clunes and right out west to Urbenville.
‘Thomas George made an eleventh hour election commitment before the election that PEL 445 would be bought back, and went on to win the seat of Lismore on a very small margin,’ Ms Bird said.
‘Minister Roberts office has previously told representatives from Gasfield Free Northern Rivers that negotiations for PEL 445 and those with Metgasco are outside the time-frame for the buyback scheme, but we haven’t heard anything publicly to that effect.
‘The community has a right to know what’s going on, and if negotiations are in process for the buy back of PEL 445 then Thomas George and Minister Roberts should be telling the people of the Northern Rivers, very clearly, exactly how things are progressing.
‘It’s been six months since the election and not a word about what’s happening with the buy back of PEL 445. This issue is a critical one for our electorate and Thomas George needs to do better to keep his constituents up to date.
‘If this issue isn’t resolved before the Federal election there is no doubt it will reflect very poorly on Nationals candidates in our region.’
Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith has also slammed the government for failing to deliver on its promise to buy back licences.
PEL 445 covers a huge chunk of the Northern Rivers, including the Ballina Electorate. The opposition to coal seam gas within its borders couldn’t be more obvious.
‘How loud do we have to be before this government listens to us?’ Ms Smith said.
‘With Thomas George now nowhere to be seen on this issue, it’s as if he’s completely given up on the Northern Rivers, Ms Smith said.
‘Meanwhile his son Stuart George is still busy at work for Metgasco, the company this week announcing plans to pursue seismic testing around Rock Valley.
16 PELS have been bought back where politically convenient as part of the Government’s failed gas buy back scheme.
NSW Greens Mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said the government had bought back all the easy licences where CSG was unlikely to have ever gone ahead, but they had failed to tackle the hard licences including the northern rivers, Gloucester, Narrabri and the Liverpool Plains.’
‘The Liberals have thrown the Nationals under a bus, and the Nationals are no longer relevant because they can’t protect country people,’ Ms Smith said.
‘This Government has proven they are completely incapable of representing the interests of our region, and far better at acting like the policy arm of mining companies.
Meanwhile, Dawn Walker, the Greens federal candidate for Richmond, also condemned the government for failing to buyback licences in the region.
‘Thomas George and the Nationals promised to buy back Petroleum Exploration Licence 445 during the 2015 state election campaign. PEL 445 still covers significant parts of the Richmond electorate, including areas around the Channon, Nimbin, Tyalgum, and Kunghur.
‘Since the state election, the Nationals have failed to buy back or cancel any active licence in the Northern Rivers. The community doesn’t deserve empty promises, it wants action.
‘Metgasco has just announced it is coming back to explore for gas in Rock Valley near Lismore in mid November.
‘Any exploration, drilling or gas licence in our region threatens the clean, green image of our world renowned agricultural and tourism industries.
‘The government should end its infatuation with a dirty fossil fuel and instead embrace a job rich, clean energy future.
‘The Greens have consistently said the government should cancel all coal seam gas licences in the Northern Rivers without compensation.
‘Our farmland, water and the health of our community are too precious.
‘With the government’s token licence buyback scheme having ended, the community is left more uncertain than ever.
‘It’s time for the NSW government to come clean on the fate of gas licences in the Northern Rivers.
‘I call on the Minister for Resources, Anthony Roberts to clearly explain to the community where the negotiations with Metgasco and IGas are at.
‘Our community deserves certainty.’
Meanwhile, Byron Shire Council’s deputy mayor Paul Spooner has announced that he will be tabling a motion at the October 8 council meeting that would ensure the council avoids investments in the CSG industry.
‘My motion seeks to give preference to finance institutions that invest in environmentally and socially responsible investments while avoiding investments in environmentally and socially harmful investments.
‘This would see council supporting investments in companies that are involved in renewable energy while avoiding companies involved in coal seam gas mining. ‘It would also see council support the provision of affordable housing while rejecting companies involved in the management of Australia’s offshore refugee detention centres.’
Cr Spooner pointed out that the council had adopted policies including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2020, and prohibiting CSG mining on council land in the shire.
‘I want to ensure that Council’s investments support the intent of adopted policies and do not actively work to undermine the environmental and social outcomes that such policies seek to achieve,’ he said.
‘If we as a community don’t want to own bits of tobacco companies, or coal companies, or detention centre operators, or coal seam gas companies, or uranium mines, or nuclear weapons then we as a council should not be investing rate payers’ money into those companies.
He said Byron Shire Council currently has investments worth $74 million.