Nationals and Libs tearing at the coal seams over CSG policy

THE Northern Rivers are tearing at coal seams as hints of division emerge between the NSW Nationals and Liberals on CSG mining licences.

Nationals North Coast MPs united in cautious opposition of CSG operations being permitted anywhere in the Northern Rivers as the State Government spruiked its new CSG policy.

Lismore's Thomas George, Ballina MP Don Page, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis and Tweed MP Geoff Provest issued a joint press statement suggesting the policy provided "framework for a gasfield-free Northern Rivers".

No such assurances were forthcoming from the Liberal Party - only promises of stronger regulations and no mining where it was unsafe and inappropriate to do so.

The new CSG plan is being sold as a means of "securing vital gas supplies for the state" to deal with a growing shortage of gas for domestic use.

It will cancel 16 existing mining applications, covering 43% of the state, and start the reissuing process from scratch in October - seven months after the State Election.

Deputy Premier Troy Grant said the government had accepted every recommendation NSW chief scientist Professor Mary O'Kane made to expand the industry under stricter regulation, increasing landholder rights, compensation and protection of water and agricultural resources.

Opposition Leader John Robertson told parliament the "glossy" policy document made no such guarantees.

He said the Nationals had "rolled over like a lap dog and allowed CSG extraction to operate in the Northern Rivers".

"What we have today is a government that has opened the gate and rolled out the red carpet to the CSG industry," he said.

The North Coast MPs all begged to differ, including Mr Page whose valedictory speech to parliament on Tuesday said CSG should be banned from the region.

"I have long questioned the appropriateness of the CSG industry in the Northern Rivers and this staged plan ensures there is no place for companies that do not comply with the NSW Government's tough new regulations," he said.

Mr George said revoking all of the state's petroleum exploration licence applications and buying back existing licences would "come at a price, but we believe that our land and water are worth the cost".

"The NSW Government is serious," he said.

"As matters currently before the courts show, we are managing the CSG industry on our own terms."

Tweed MP Geoff Provest called on the industry to reflect on its reputation in the community and to "consider handing licences that cover inappropriate areas back to the government through the buy-back process".

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said communities would not be compromised by industry.

"We will determine where coal seam gas takes place, not the gas companies," he said.

-APN NEWSDESK



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