A renewed call has been made by anti-CSG activists in the northern rivers for a total ban of coal-seam-gas activity throughout NSW in the wake of Victoria becoming the first state to ban CSG exploration and fracking.
In the Northern Territory, the incoming Labor government has also announced it would place a moratorium on the CSG industry, while WA Labor is also calling for a halt on exploration and operations if it wins the state election next year.
Longtime Tweed anti-CSG campaigner, Michael McNamara, said the actions by both governments ‘highlight how ineffective the Baird government in NSW has been’.
‘After the great community upswelling at Bentley forced the state government to buy back a number of licences the government has fallen short of banning CSG exploration and extraction’, Mr McNamara said.
‘The recent fiasco of having CSG included in the draft Regional Plan for the Northern Rivers has brought the issue back into focus in the community mind, and for many people gave the government’s real agenda away’ he said.
‘Local residents are not convinced that they can trust the Baird state government to actually implement the community will that CSG not be allowed.
‘They are especially sceptical about the stance of their local National Party state MPs Thomas George (Lismore), Geoff Provest (Tweed) and Chris Galuptis (Clarence).
‘Chris Galuptis can find it in himself to cross the floor and vote against the government to protect greyhound racing but can’t find the scope to stand with his community over CSG.
‘They are even more sceptical of the National Party aligned councillors in the Tweed, who have failed to support any anti-CSG resolutions in council since 2011 when they voted in support of a moratorium,’ Mr McNamara, a candidate in the council poll, said.
‘Residents want local representatives who will reflect and support the community views on this important issue’.
The Victorian Labor government’s plans to introduce legislation later this year to permanently ban exploration and development of all onshore unconventional gas, including coal seam gas and hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.
Predictably, while farmers and anti-CSG campaigners have welcomed the Victorian Government’s decision, the mining industry claims it will lead to gas price hikes and shortages.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said the permanent ban will protect the ‘clean, green’ reputation of Victoria’s agriculture sector, which employs more than 190,000 people.
‘This will provide much-needed certainty to regional communities,’ Mr Andrews said in the government’s announcement last week.
‘The decision ends the anxiety felt by Victorian farmers about the environmental and health risks associated with fracking and forms part of the government response to the 2015 Parliamentary Inquiry into Onshore Unconventional Gas in Victoria,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘This inquiry received more than 1,600 submissions, mostly opposed to onshore unconventional gas. It is clear that the Victorian community has spoken – they simply don’t support fracking.
‘The government’s decision is based on the best available evidence and acknowledges that the risks involved outweigh any potential benefits to Victoria.
‘Our state is the nation’s top food and fibre producer with exports worth $11.6 billion.
‘The permanent ban protects our farmers and preserves Victoria’s hard-won reputation for producing high quality food.
‘Exemptions to the ban will remain for other types of activities that are not covered by the current moratorium, such as gas storage, carbon storage research and accessing offshore resources. Exploration and development for offshore gas will also continue.
‘Until the legislation is passed by Parliament, the current moratorium on unconventional onshore gas exploration and development will stay in place.
‘The Labor government will also legislate to extend the current moratorium on the exploration and development of conventional onshore gas until 30 June 2020, noting that fracking will remain banned.
‘We will undertake the most extensive scientific, technical and environmental studies in Australia on the risks, benefits and impacts of onshore gas.
‘These will be overseen by an expert panel, headed by the Lead Scientist, Amanda Caples, and will include farmers and industry, business and community representatives.
‘Our farmers produce some of the world’s cleanest and freshest food. We won’t put that at risk with fracking.
‘Victorians have made it clear that they don’t support fracking and that the health and environmental risks involved outweigh any potential benefits,’ Mr Andrews said.