Tony Abbott rides into Kyogle as part of the annual Pollie Pedal event.
Tony Abbott rides into Kyogle as part of the annual Pollie Pedal event. Marc Stapelberg

Abbott cycles into coal gas row

THE Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would not support a moratorium on coal seam gas exploration in NSW unless he was “persuaded” miners were playing “fast and loose with the environment”.

The Liberal party leader's comments follow rising concerns over coal seam gas exploration across the Northern Rivers and reports of leaking gas wells.

The Northern Star spoke to Mr Abbott in Kyogle on Saturday after he and 70 fellow cyclists rode 110km from the Gold Coast as part of the annual Pollie Pedal event.

While Mr Abbott seemed focused on ensuring the environment was protected, he said it was wrong to assume miners were environmental vandals.

“They have an interest in this as mining companies but miners are human beings and citizens as well as miners,” he said.

“So this idea that the miners are just out to rape and pillage the land I think is wrong.

“I would want further evidence before I support a moratorium.

“I know there are significant concerns and I think they should be taken seriously. I would be appalled if there was any strong evidence that there weren't very strict environmental conditions being applied.

“But unless I was persuaded that we are playing fast and loose with the environment here I would be reluctant to support a moratorium.”

Rous Water Council recently voted to back a moratorium on coal seam gas mining in NSW.

They also voted to write to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Mr Abbott about their concerns.

Mr Abbott would not speculate whether 100 exploration projects in the Northern Rivers alone were over the top.

“This is a very much a booming sector, I think right up and down our east coast that are very prospective for coal seem gas. There is a lot of exploration going on at the moment,” he said.

He said the Opposition was not wholly dependant on research from the mining industry but took into account independent advice from geologists and university researchers.

“The industry has got to meet the toughest environmental standards and it's got to be properly policed,” he said.

“I'm no expert on coal seam gas and I'm no expert on what the consequences may be from a leak.

“But what we have to do is we have to a, protect the environment, b, ensure the water table is protected given the importance of water in many agricultural areas and c, we have got to ensure whatever we do does not damage agricultural land.

“Coal seam gas is a very valuable asset and it will help to make us richer for 30 or 40 years but agricultural land is an asset for thousands of years.”

The Pollie Pedal began the 126km journey from Kyogle to Grafton yesterday morning.

The group, which is raising money for the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, will finish the strenuous trip in Manly on Sunday.



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