The NSW government has replaced the entire board of the Sydney Catchment Authority. The new chairperson is a former director of two of Australia’s largest mining companies, and for the first time in its history there is no public health expert on the board.
The people of NSW have to ask “what is going on between the O’Farrell Government and the mining industry”?
In opposition, the (now) Minister for Resources, Chris Hartcher, lectured parliament extensively about the dangers posed by coal seam gas (CSG) mining, using Eastern Mining’s pollution of the Pilliga as an example. Similarly the Premier made a ‘no ifs, no buts’ unconditional promise to ban mining in our water catchments.
Subsequently, we have witnessed CSG contamination events across NSW and Queensland that clearly demonstrate that neither the industry or current planning and legislation standards can be relied on to protect vital areas – such as our drinking water catchments and prime farmland – from the effects of CSG mining.
Since obtaining office with these opposing policies, Minister Hartcher has overseen CSG licence renewals and drilling approvals across our drinking water catchments that include approval for fracking. This is despite mounting scientific evidence of the danger CSG mining poses to water supplies, the increased risk created when fracking is used and the dubious nature of the clean energy tag attributed to unconventional gas by the CSG industry.
The NSW Government has ignored most recommendations of the Upper House Review Committee into CSG mining. The ensuing Strategic Regional Land Use Policy turned out to be farcical in protecting our drinking water from production CSG mining.
In the latest development, the Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, has replaced the chairman of The Sydney Catchment Authority, the independent body established for the sole purpose of protecting our drinking water supplies, with a Liberal party crony who just happens to be a former senior executive in the mining industry.
In the context of CSG licenses being granted over drinking water catchments, including two in the Illawarra, this is of grave concern. How can it possibly be acceptable that the authority charged with protecting our drinking water – for the purpose of public health – has not one public health expert, but is headed up by a former mining executive?
It is difficult to recall a period when an Australian state has seen such disregard for proper government process and standards. It’s time for all citizens of NSW to let this government know, in no uncertain terms, that this latest abuse of power is a step too far.