Nats CSG principles ‘too little, too late’

James Nason, 09/11/2011

The Federal National Party’s framework statement on coal seam gas mining released earlier this week has been criticised by two key landholder representative groups.

On Sunday the Nationals announced the principles that will guide the party's approach to CSG policy in future. Leader Warren Truss said the Nationals were seeking to develop a balance between harnessing the economic opportunities offered to regional Australia by the CSG industry, while avoiding potential negative impacts that could result in environmental and social disasters.

However its early approach has failed to win the backing of two groups that represent landholders specifically affected by coal and coal seam gas mining issues.

The Basin Sustainability Alliance described the National's announcement as 'too little, too late'.

BSA chair Ian Hayllor said the alliance welcomed the Nationals' policy principles which highlighted the need to protect groundwater and prime agricultural land, to ensure CSG is safe for the environment, and to promote the need for CSG companies to require a “social” license to operate.

The principles aligned with the BSA’s “Not at any cost” Blueprint for Sustainable CSG development released in March this year.

However there were several areas where the Nationals' principles did not go far enough, and the BSA would be watching the detail of its resulting policy closely, Mr Hayllor said.

While the Nationals were still developing a CSG policy, the elephant in the room was the fact that projects continued to roll out without groundwater and other issues being addressed.

“It is good to see the Federal National Party finally making a stance but at this stage we need them to put pressure on all levels of government. What we really need is bipartisan support and action immediately to address the concerns, not lip-service,”  Mr Hayllor said.

“We look forward to seeing the detail in the discussion paper and in doing so we will be looking to ensure that the policies developed will genuinely support the principles put forward by the party.”

Mr Hayllor said affected landholders had also felt that the Nationals had let down the bush on the issue at the last election.

Similarly the Lock the Gate alliance has also criticised the Nationals for not going far enough.

Alliance president Drew Hutton said the Nationals' CSG framework continued the party’s practice of telling farmers they sympathised with their plight and would be looked after, while failing to address the real problems created by the rapidly expanding gas industry.

Mr Hutton said the Nationals must make it clear what actions they will take to protect such assets as good farm land and underground water.

"Will the Nationals support legislation that protects all good agricultural land and not just the tiny percentage the Queensland government will protect under its Strategic Cropping Land legislation? Mr Hutton asked.

"Will the Nationals support stronger legislation at both federal and state levels that keeps mining away from vulnerable underground water systems?

"So far the neither the Nationals nor their coalition partner the Liberals have shown any inclination to back up their soothing words with actions that count.

"Most importantly, will the Nationals support a moratorium on all further CSG development until all the potential impacts have been properly assessed?

Public views on CSG

Meanwhile, a poll of public opinion on the Coal Seam Gas industry by Essential Media has highlighted public support for greater restrictions on extraction activities.

In late October Essential Media asked members of its randomised Australia-wide survey panel if Governments should restrict mining of coal seam gas on farming land.

50pc of respondents said Governments should restrict coal seam gas mining, 20pc said that current regulations balanced the interests of farmers and mining companies, and 30pc said they had no opinion on the issue. 

RELATED ARTICLE: Nationals outline CSG policy


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