Farmers from across regional NSW have welcomed a Bill introduced to the upper house of NSW parliament calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas, and have urged all parliamentarians who value groundwater and support communities to help pass it.
The Bill, by Independent MLC Justin Field, replicates the provisions of a similar Bill introduced by the NSW Labor Party in the last parliament which never proceeded to debate and vote.
It comes after the latest ACCC gas report, released yesterday, showed gas supplies have been increasing in the east coast and demand has been falling, but prices have not budged.
- Create a Standing Expert Panel on coal seam gas, as recommended by the NSW Chief Scientist five years ago
- Exclude the industry from the Northern Rivers, coastal drinking water catchments and the southern recharge aquifer of the Great Artesian Basin and
- Create a state-wide moratorium on exploration and production of coal seam gas until the Expert Panel has declared the industry safe.
The move comes after the NSW National Party conference in Inverell passed a motion calling on the NSW Government “to extinguish Petroleum Exploration Licenses as soon as they expire” in reference to 12 expired coal seam gas licences covering farmland and communities in the state’s North West.
Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck is a member of an alliance of community groups in the North West of the state fighting to protect groundwater from depletion and contamination by coal seam gas.
Fleck said, “We’re grateful to Justin Field for his leadership in introducing this Bill which is a sensible way to address long-standing community opposition to this industry and implement the recommendations of the Chief Scientist.
“This is especially urgent for farmers in our region right now - faced with an ongoing and severe drought, we cannot afford to let CSG put our groundwater at risk.
“We urge the Labor Party, Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party, and all cross-bench MLCs to support this Bill and get it passed, given the risks of CSG and long-term community opposition.
“Most importantly, this is a key test for the National Party and we urge them to vote for this Bill - given their party has passed a motion to have expired CSG licences extinguished, they should step up and support this Bill to have the Chief Scientist’s recommendations implemented."
Meg Nielsen is a farmer from Bentley near Lismore and a member of the Gasfield Free Northern Rivers network.
Nielsen said, “Our region stood together to stop CSG damaging our farmland and water resources and we urge all parliamentarians to support this Bill and put into law the permanent protection the people of the northern Rivers fought so hard for.
“The National Party has repeatedly said it will protect our region from CSG but there is nothing to stop a new gas company moving in tomorrow.
“This is also a big issue for the Labor Party, who were elected here on a promise to protect this region and put a state-wide CSG moratorium in place - we’re asking them to honour that promise and vote in support of the Bill.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the farmers in North West NSW who have been fighting to protect precious groundwater from CSG for a decade, and with this Bill we hope they are finally free to farm in peace without the threat of invasive gasfields.”
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW Coordinator Georgina Woods said, “Coal seam gas is expensive, damaging and unreliable and New South Wales can’t afford to let it go ahead.
“The latest ACCC report has confirmed what we have always known - that eastern Australia is suffering from a gas price crisis, not a supply crisis.
“There is simply no need for more farmland to be destroyed so that expensive, polluting coal seam gas can be extracted.
“There’s no need or value in sacrificing groundwater in the parched North West for an industry nobody wants and a fuel nobody can afford.”