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Too little, too late – Coal Seam Gas activities in NSW should cease until comprehensive, inclusive policies are in place

Statements today by Andrew Stoner make it obvious that current regulations of the coal seam gas industry are severely lacking, and that given the damage that is being done to communities, to family to our land, our water and our ecosystems, the NSW Government should halt all coal seam gas activities until the new policies are developed in conjunction with concerned residents of NSW.

Lock the Gate Vice President, Jacinta Green said, “It is concerning that these announcements are specifically for exploration on strategic regional land.”

“Our water catchments, our areas of natural beauty, our urban communities and our lifestyle regions all deserve protection and from production as well as exploration.”

“Movement of water, air, soil, flora and fauna don’t recognise the boundaries between strategic regional land and non strategic regional land and the definition of strategic regional land is sketchy at best.

“We understand a new Land and Water Commissioner will be appointed to oversee exploration dealings with affected landholders on strategic agricultural land. The Government is still missing the point, coal seam gas affects entire communities and the whole community needs to be included in the negotiation process, and individual landholders, whether they are on strategic agricultural land or not, have to accept that they are part of the chain of responsibility to their neighbours and their communities.

“If we look at Queensland’s Gas Commission, it has rapidly descended into a whitewash, with close ties between the Commissioner and the gas industry, we are not hopeful for anything better.

“There have been provisions for standardised access agreements within the NSW legislation for many years, so this is nothing new.  What farmers have been asking for is the right to say no to access agreements, not for more process that gives still gas companies the right to march onto their land. There needs to be some areas of NSW off limits.

“The scrapping of the royalty holiday poses an interesting dilemma for the NSW Government, if it applies to existing licences (which cover 24.9% of the land area and 90% of the population) then it would be in line with the retrospective legislation which Barry O’Farrell banned after the solar panel feed-in fiasco, if it only applies to new licences, it is a meaningless statement,” said Green.

“Is the Government helping the gas industry to try to buy a social licence to operate? The Government should be increasing royalty rates and then using the money to distribute to the community based on need and the public good, rather than developing this elaborate plan to boost the image of gas companies.

“This plan seems designed to make communities feel they are dependent on gas companies for basic services and infrastructure, which is simply wrong.  It is the Governments job to look after communities and they should be increasing royalty rates and delivering services directly to the community without gas company spin all over it.

“If the additional infrastructure is needed because of the impact of coal seam gas, then surely that is a cost of business that should be borne by the companies not the NSW taxpayer at large.

“This is much bigger than landholders and agriculture, people across NSW are also calling for protection of wilderness areas, our water catchments, our urban and lifestyle areas, and our communities. After all what point is there in protecting farmland, if the Great Artesian Basin is contaminated by drilling in the Pilliga.”

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