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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Page: 296

Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond) (19:33): I rise tonight to speak about the very strong campaign on the North Coast of New South Wales to stop coal seam gas mining. I want to outline some of the remarkable community groups and individuals who are standing together to stop what we see as one of the most harmful activities happening on the North Coast. In fact, today there is an ongoing protest at Doubtful Creek near Kyogle, in the electorate of Page. Members have to understand that there is a lot of passion and commitment from people in terms of the reality and the impact of coal seam gas mining. When we look at the strong community and how everyone has come together, we see so many declarations right across the North Coast, particularly from some of our councils, which have declared themselves CSG free. In fact, in my electorate, Tweed council, Byron council and Lismore council have taken that strong stance so that people know how they feel. Also we have a range of different towns and villages which have nominated themselves to be CSG free. Every day we seem to hear of more towns or villages, streets or communities getting together right across the North Coast. On 8 September last year, during council elections in Lismore, there was also a referendum on CSG where 88 per cent of people, a huge number, voted no to the question, 'Do you support coal seam gas exploration and production in the Lismore City Council Area?'

I want to acknowledge the great work done by the member for Page, Janelle Saffin, in raising this issue, and also the Mayor of Lismore, Jenny Dowell, and some remarkable community groups on the North Coast which are working really hard to stop coal seam gas mining. We have the North Coast Environment Council, CSG Free Northern Rivers, Tweed's Lock the Gate Alliance, Nimbin Environment Centre, Caldera Environment Centre, Transition Byron Shire and also NOROC, the North Coast peak council for local councils, has given money for research into the effect of CSG on the environment. That is a huge cross-section of groups.

We have also seen a series of different activities right across the North Coast—different marches and protests. In October last year around 4,000 people marched against CSG mining in the town of Murwillumbah and that day was known as 'Rock the Gate'. In May 2012, in Lismore, 7,000 people marched. Recently, when the New South Wales state minister visited Lismore, 800 people protested there. We have the outstanding Knitting Nannas Against Gas—we have to mention them. Also, the Byron Environment Centre coordinated around 10,000 submissions opposing coal seam gas. All of these community groups are opposed to coal seam gas mining on the North Coast.

In contrast, all the National Party state MPs and all the candidates on the North Coast support harmful CSG mining. So there they are, totally isolated, supporting coal seam gas mining. Locals know you just cannot trust the National Party on this issue and on so many other issues.

I would like to refer to an article from the Lismore Northern Staron 12 September 2012. It is called, 'CSG exploration—it's all go'. The whole article outlines how much the state National Party MPs support the CSG mine in our area. I will read some of that to you:

COAL seam gas company Metgasco says the NSW Government has given it the "green light" to explore near Casino.

Just days after Lismore voters overwhelmingly rejected CSG in an election poll, the O'Farrell Government yesterday renewed 21 CSG exploration licences in NSW.

They rubber stamped it. The Northern Star said that what happened was that the local members—Don Page, Thomas George, Geoff Provest and Chris Gulaptis—had a conference call with the Northern Star in a bid to sell the policy. They wanted to tell them how great it all was. What they came up with at the end of it was that one of them—Don Page, who is also the North Coast minister—said that he understood that some people would not be pleased but that it was the world's best policy.

There we have it in the September Northern Star—all the National Party saying how great it is to have coal seam gas mining, all on the conference call telling the editor how great it is and that they all want to get out there and sell the policy. They stand alone on the North Coast. The fact is that they are all too scared to go and tell their boss, Barry O'Farrell, that the people of the North Coast do not want coal seam gas mining. I will keep calling on them to do just that and so will the community. They just cannot remain silent while we have this as our major issue. They all support harmful coal seam gas mining and we will continue to campaign on it. This is a state government issue: yes, they regulate it and they license it. It shows, yet again, why you cannot trust the National Party on an issue that is devastating not just to the environment but also to people's health. We will continue our campaign.