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.
The licence renewals were announced the same day the Government revealed its long-awaited strategic regional land-use policy which claims to balance resources, farming and environmental concerns.
Metgasco chief executive Peter Henderson was yesterday celebrating the licence renewals and an official production lease approval for the Casino power station, while saying he was disappointed by the new restrictions.
He said the announcements sent a clear message NSW was "open for business" but the new rules were "unnecessarily restrictive".
Mr Henderson's remarks reflect the industry's concerns that the policy will cause delays and cost blow- outs; while green groups and farmers hit out at the Government for not doing enough to protect land and water assets.
But North Coast Minister Don Page said he expected most people would not be pleased with the policy, which he said tried to cut through differing views, to provide what he called a bal- anced, "world's-best policy".
Mr Page joined three fellow National MPs, Chris Gulaptis, Geoff Provest and Thomas George, on a conference call with The Northern Star in a bid to sell the policy to North Coast readers yesterday.
Mr Page said the policy would create 27 new measures to ensure farmland was protected and improve the balance between mining and agricultural interests.
Two main parts of the policy were the creation of a Land and Water Commissioner with oversight of all projects from the start of exploration, and the requirement for resource companies to prepare an agricultural impact statement for every exploration project.
While Mr Page said the commissioner would have to advise the community and government on the scientific aspects of CSG operations and how they could affect aquifers, under the proposal the state's chief scientist would not have an ongoing role in such assessments.
He said the Aquifer Interference Policy would protect groundwater resources.
As part of the 21 petroleum exploration licence (PEL) renewals signed off on Tuesday across the state, Metgasco's PEL 13 and 16 near Casino were approved.