UPPER Hunter MP George Souris has confirmed the Gloucester Gas Project will not be affected by State government plans to introduce a 2km residential exclusion zone for coal seam gas extraction.
At the same time mayor John Rosenbaum has hit out at both the State and federal government for again neglecting Gloucester and failing to do enough to protect residents from the cumulative impacts of mining.
The 2km buffer zones would be introduced around equine and viticulture areas identified as ‘critical industry clusters (CICs)’ as well as residential areas to prevent new coal seam gas (CSG) exploration, assessment and production activities for surface and underground works.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will be put in charge of regulating the environmental and health impacts of the growing industry, and the State’s Chief Scientist and Engineer will conduct an independent review of all CSG activities and their impact on water catchments.
An Office of Coal Seam Regulation would also be set up inside the Department of Trade and Investment. But the new exclusion zones would only affect any CSG activity that has not yet been approved.
“This project is not a PEL (Petroleum Exploration Licence) it is unfortunately a fully approved DA (Development Application),” Mr Souris said. “(It) has been approved by the previous government days before caretaker mode prior to the election, and by the federal government last week, and is binding.
“The policy of exclusion (both the 2km residential and CICs) applies to all PELs existing or not yet granted.” Cr Rosenbaum said he had been informed that stage one of the Gloucester Gas Project, which includes a minimum of 110 CSG wells and construction of a gas pipeline from Stratford to Hexham, would not be affected by the State government’s announcement.
“We’re still not clear on what it means for stages two and three, but we’re pretty certain it won’t affect them either as they were included as part of the initial development application,” he said. “What’s made me really annoyed is how we’re being treated differently to those living in suburbia. “Surely we’re affected just as much as someone living in western Sydney.” Cr Rosenbaum said it would again be rural families living and working on the land that would suffer most because of Monday night’s decision.
“Why can’t CSG extraction be excluded within 2km of rural homes? And why are wineries and horse breeders exempt and not beef or dairy farmers?” he said.
The mayor also questioned why the State government’s announcement had been made just a week after Tony Burke had granted conditional approval to the Gloucester Gas Project, something Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott also queried. “The Premier could have and should have moved months ago, when the Commonwealth asked NSW to develop meaningful protocols on CSG regulation,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“The decision looks to be about western Sydney, and not about science, water or a better planning system. If anything, it confirms planning is not about objective processes, but subjective politics. “If NSW is serious about recognising the impacts of CSG activity on communities within a 2km boundary, then they are acknowledging there are issues that affect people.
So why do people in regional communities, such as Gloucester and Taree, not matter to the NSW government?
“As a senior cabinet minister and the state MP for Gloucester, Mr Souris in particular has an opportunity to explain the details of the latest changes and whether Gloucester is in or out.” Mr Souris said Mr Oakeshott had some explaining of his own to do. “With great respect, he empowers the federal government that last week gave the final approvals for CSG production at Gloucester,” he said.