Council To Push For Gas Ban


Wollongong City Council is pushing for a ban on coal seam gas (CSG) mining across its entire local government area.

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery told a 3000-strong crowd in Clifton on Sunday that the council would represent their views in its submission to the NSW Parliamentary inquiry into CSG.

The crowd had gathered to take part in the Walk for Water protest march across the Sea Cliff Bridge.

Coal Seam Gas protest, Sea Cliff Bridge.
16 October 2011. Photo by Benjamin Vozzo.

"The Council is concerned about the environmental impacts of coal seam gas mining. The council is urging the state government to rule out coal seam gas mining activities in this city, that is from Helensburgh down to Yallah — the full local government area," he told the crowd.

"I would like to make it very clear, and I think the councillors are with me, that anything that intrudes on the quality of our water supply and anything that detracts from the amenity of our city is not on."

Walk for Water was organised by Stop CSG Illawarra, and coincided with other anti-CSG protests around the country.

Local residents who attended were unanimous in their opposition to CSG mining.

Darkes Forest resident Jaime Thompson was one of the locals who took part.

"I’m really worried about it, as is everyone else here today marching," she said. "They’re looking at doing coal seam gas mining in the Darkes Forest area — that’s where I live. [I’m] totally against it, it’s totally corrupt."

Lyle Davis, a member of the Yuin nation, voiced his concerns about the impact of CSG drilling on the water catchment.

"Warragamba Dam and Woronora Dam, that’s our drinking water," he said. "It’s so stupendously ridiculous, there are not any words in the dictionary in any language on the planet to describe how stupid it is to give these miners the right to drill where they’re drilling."

Local resident Dr Fiona Martin told New Matilda that her main concern was the lack of legislative oversight for CSG mining in NSW.

"There are no strict controls, the environmental planning process isn’t in place, and we still don’t know what processes the companies are actually using to undertake the exploration, let alone any future plans they have for developing the CSG mines," she said.

Around halfway through the walk, the crowd cheered loudly as two abseilers unveiled a massive sign that read, "The community has spoken. STOP CSG!"


Coal Seam Gas protest, Sea Cliff Bridge.
16 October 2011. Photo by Benjamin Vozzo.

Once the walk was completed, Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore took the opportunity to criticise NSW governments past and present over their handling of the issue.

"Shame on the previous government for granting these approvals without talking to this community. And shame on the current government for failing to listen," she said.

In 2009, Apex Energy was granted approval to drill 15 exploratory boreholes in the Illawarra region.

The NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure recently recommended approval for Apex Energy to develop a 16th exploratory borehole in a Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) Special Area.

Moore told New Matilda that community opposition is so strong it could prevent the additional borehole from ever being drilled, with or without government approval.

"The Illawarra campaign is probably one of the strongest campaigns around the country… and I [pity]the person that makes that decision to approve it," she said.

"My hope is that even if the government makes the wrong decision on this one, this community will actually prevent that well from being drilled."

Moore also hit back at The Australian newspaper, NSW Resources Minister Chris Hartcher and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) for insinuating political links to the Stop CSG Illawarra campaign.

"The Australian, in collusion with a member of parliament and the peak body for the coal seam gas industry … actually colluded to try and divide this community campaign," she said.

"This campaign has people from all different political backgrounds, all walks of life, brings together everyone who opposes coal seam gas mining. And they’ve attempted to say you shouldn’t work with some of the people involved in this campaign, which is absolute rubbish."

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery also spoke with New Matilda after the event, saying that he believes CSG companies haven’t consulted enough with the community.

"I think that the coal seam gas mining industry, and more specifically the mining industry, has to get its act together in bringing people with them," he said.

"If they were more sensible about it in terms of their approach and bringing [in]the community, this might never have happened."

Wollongong City Council will be making a submission to the Parliamentary inquiry in Bowral on 8 December.

The Planning Assessment Commission will today hear concerns from the public over Apex Energy’s 16th borehole located in Sydney Catchment Authority Special Area.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.