LETTER: We can not sit idle

WE write to express our disappointment with Minister Burke’s conditional approval for AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project and the unsatisfactory planning process that lead to it.

While the conditions for more detailed hydrogeological assessment are encouraging, the proposed assessment will not address our community’s concerns.

AGL is not operating in isolation.

It is perhaps the most benign of three major and overlapping developments that are currently in the planning pipeline for the Gloucester valley (Stratford mine expansion, Rocky Hill mine and the Gloucester Gas Project and its Gloucester to Newcastle pipeline).

Individually they each pose particular risks to our community.

Collectively, their impact remains unquantified and may be disastrous.

We consider that both the State and federal governments are wilfully ignoring potential cumulative impacts.

The proposed hydrogeological assessment will do nothing to address this situation.

More worrying still are the cumulative impacts of the three projects on the health of local residents.

The political brinkmanship that has led to this decision reinforces our perception that the interests of our community are being completely disregarded in a party political spat.

The State government while in opposition promised to protect land and water but has instituted policy that does no such thing.

The State government has advice from its own Department of Health on the potential health impacts of CSG, but has not responded to these concerns.

The federal government promised bioregional assessments and sober consideration of major projects by an Independent Expert Scientific Committee.

Its conditional approval has pre-empted the consideration of cumulative impacts by both processes.

It appears that both levels of government are more interested in facilitating mining projects than protecting the underlying capacity of our country for sustainable primary production or the health of communities in areas impacted by mining.

We understand that local communities have few formal powers over these matters.

But the Minister’s decision exposes us to serious economic, social and environmental risks.

We can not sit idle while remote and faceless people pull the levers of power, and politicians condemn us to a future of jeopardy.

For these reasons we are making a public plea that further development of CSG (coal seam gas) and coal mining in the Gloucester valley be suspended until their cumulative impacts can be assessed.

Specifically:

1. The federal bioregional assessment process is completed for the Gloucester valley.

2. An independent assessment of the cumulative impacts of these three projects on surface and groundwater in the Gloucester valley is completed.

3. The Expert Scientific Committee can consider the findings of the independent water assessment and make recommendations to government.

4. An independent assessment of the cumulative impacts of these three projects on community health in the Gloucester valley is completed.

5. The NSW Department of Health can consider the findings of the health assessment and make recommendations to government.

Councillors John Rosenbaum, Frank Hooke, Aled Hoggett, James Hooke, Katheryn Smith and Tony Tersteeg

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