The towns at the centre of the struggle against CSG two years ago have been left out of the Department of Planning and Environment’s consultation program for the state government’s draft North Coast Regional Plan.
The new plan, which specifically includes potential for future CSG exploration throughout the Clarence-Morton Basin, will be unveiled in consultation sessions at Tweed Heads, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie during April but none are planned for any of the towns previously covered by CSG licences.
According to the plan, the NSW Department of Industry is ‘mapping coal and coal seam gas resources in the region.’
‘Once completed this information will inform future regional and local planning by providing updated information on the location of resources.’
This information can then be used to ‘support expansion of the sector’, the plan advises.
Lismore, Kyogle, Casino and Grafton have all been left off the list and Gasfields Free Northern Rivers (GFNR) thinks it knows why: because they represent the heart of resistance to the industry in the region.
They are also likely to be the towns most affected by any potential future development, simply because of the location of the basin.
Ironically, it was precisely such lack of community consultation that provided the wedge that finally drove the unlamented junior gas explorer Metgasco from the region.
GFNR spokesperson Ian Gaillard said the people of the Northern Rivers had already ‘resoundingly rejected the development of gasfields in our region’.
‘We are strongly committed to a healthy future for our region and we must be included in discussions that propose the re-introduction of CSG,’ Mr Gaillard said.
‘More than 95 per cent of people in 147 communities in the northern rivers have affirmed their opposition to invasive gasfields, and we aren’t going anywhere.’ he added.
‘We are astounded that this draft plan proposes CSG development despite the government spending more than $25 million, just four months ago, to buyback all of the licences from the Queensland border to Grafton.
‘There is nothing to prevent these licences being re-issued and this plan makes it look like that is exactly what the NSW Government is planning for our future. In fact, a specific target of the plan is to facilitate investment in the resources and energy sector.
‘How much more money is this government prepared to throw at a dead end industry, against the will of the community?’ Mr Gaillard asked.
‘The NSW government and northern rivers [National Party] local members claimed that the buy-back of licences across the region delivered on their promise of a gasfield free northern rivers, but the draft plan says nothing of the sort!’
‘References to CSG in the plan,’ he said, ‘undermine confidence and deter investment in our region by clean, healthy and sustainable industries.
‘It beggars belief that the people of the Northern Rivers would not be consulted when our determination to stay gasfield free has been so emphatic.’ Mr Gaillard said.