On Tuesday 11 Sep 2012, the NSW government released its Strategic Regional Land Use Policy; plans the public was told would protect land and water.
But it is a policy to develop CSG in NSW; and one that breaks a slew of promises made to the people of NSW.
Barry O’Farrell promised to ban exploration and mining in the drinking water catchment. The Coalition promised to rule out sensitive areas, assess cumulative impacts, weigh environmental, social and economic impacts of development, and require aquifer interference approval. The new rules and announcements show that these promises – quite clearly – were lies.
Under the policy, no part of NSW – not the land where food is grown, not our water catchments – is off limits to CSG mining and exploration. The test for aquifer interference has been downgraded to have no legal teeth. Mapping of high conservation value areas, the cost-benefit analysis and the public interest test have all been taken out of the policy.
And it gets worse… On the same day, the government lifted the freeze on fracking and offered to renew 22 CSG exploration licences [PDF] in NSW across 5 million hectares. Four of these are in the Illawarra (PELs 2, 444 and 463 in the north and PEL 469 in the south), and include the drinking water catchment. A new CSG production licence was also granted in Casino.
Dressed up in words like ‘protection’ these changes are nothing short of betrayal.
Communities have made it clear that science must come before development, and that land and water must be protected. And we will continue to make that clear until the government acknowledges it and acts upon it.