Community responds to AGL withdrawal

Gloucester Shire Council mayor John Rosenbaum has welcomed AGL’s cancellation of its Gloucester Gas Project, saying his first reaction was one of relief. 

“Andy Vesey rang me this morning to say they will be closing AGL down in Gloucester. I’m relieved. I believe the community at large are of the same mind, there has been a lot of concern about the lack of understanding and the process of how to extract the gas. With this decision it’s a commercial decision which has very little to do with how the community may have felt but they will be relieved. 

"We would welcome AGL to talk to us and we would be very interested in establishing a renewal  energy project. We would welcome any future discussion with AGL in how to move with any investment in our region.”

Acknowledging that some people will be disappointed in the impact on job opportunities lost, he said that it had always been very difficult to get a good understanding on who they would be employing, in the short and long term.

Cr Rosenbaum described the next hurdle as future directions in energy sources but hoped AGL’s decision today would open the door “for people who have an interest in wanting to move to Gloucester, knowing there will not be a gas field in the valley.”

Groundswell Gloucester’s Julie Lyford celebrated the decision with some champagne, saying that she wasn’t surprised  that “AGL would respond to the community’s wishes” and that it was a proof “that ordinary people standing up is a powerful force.”

“It’s also important to note that scientifically this was never going to be a viable gas field,” she said.

“Groundswell Gloucester won’t rest on this, there’s a significant issue of collusion and culpability with the state department and we will continue to expose the gas plan for what it was. CSG in NSW is dead in the water.”

She said that having met with Andy Vesey twice it was “clear that the CSG industry was not a space that a company like AGL wanted to be in.”

“He wants to place AGL as a progressive energy company. We respect his decision and look forward to working with AGL for a renewable future.”

Echoing Cr Rosenbaum, she hoped the influx of tree-changers into the area will be re-invigorated with AGL’s decision, encouraged by Gloucester’s “will, strength and integrity” for the future.

Advance Gloucester’s Rod Williams said the announcement was disappointing and that it was a complete “game changer” for Gloucester as it signalled the numbers wouldn’t stack up for anyone else either.

“If they did, you would think AGL would keep the PEL to sell it to someone else,” he surmised. 

“Coal seam gas is never going to happen now.”

With a “fair chunk” of public support going to the perceived spin-offs of the project, he said that it would be a disappointing decision for many in the community. 

Based on prior comments by AGL’s Nigel Bean, he thought it unlikely AGL would be interested building renewable power here due to not enough sun or wind.

“They have hydro but no-one’s going to want to build a dam,” he laughed. 

He said along with the 70 to 80 land titles now incorporating the pipeline corridor no longer needed, the details for the $2 million committed to “Gloucester and its identity” also had to be worked out, but it was important to try to double then triple that money for the community.

“Everthing’s up in the air now,” he said. 

“It’s going to take some time to come together in some way, it will take some time to heal the divisions, but Gloucester needs to start looking at other avenues.”

He said Regional Development Australia appeared to be keen to bolster the region.

“In a weird way, as crappy as this is, it could actually escalate other positive aspects for the area,” he said.

“But it's something completely different from someone turning up wanting to invest here than going out to encourage other to come in and invest.”

“Looking ahead it doesn’t matter what it is as long as something can happen.”

He said with AGL needing to manage their brand as they exit the town it was a good opportunity for the community as he hoped they would be “pretty amenable to different options for assistance.”

Green’s Jeremy Buckingham congratulated AGL on its decision and took the opportunity to pressure the “last deeply unpopular and troubled coal seam gas project left in NSW.”

“It is time for Premier Baird to act and ban coal seam gas across the state,” he said.