The Dec 5th Central Coast Express Advocate carried a small item on page 5 reporting on a statement from Member for Gosford Mr. Chris Holstein (Lib) to the effect that community concerns over CSG mining were completely misplaced. If you missed it, it is reproduced here.
The Gasfield Free Mountain District committee wrote to the editor with a response, however they have exercised their editorial control – as it is their right – and our response has not been printed. Here’s what we have to say in response to Mr. Holstein’s statement:
Member for Gosford Mr. Chris Holstein is absolutely correct in saying that there is no current approval for coal seam gas production anywhere in the Central Coast. In saying so however Mr. Holstein risks being accused of having made a disingenuous statement at worst, or at best as holding a genuine misunderstanding of the community’s widely held and well demonstrated concerns.
The fact is that a Petroleum Exploration License (AGL’s PEL#2) is in place over all of the Central Coast’s water catchment area for Mangrove Dam, the dam itself and basically all the land West of the M1 corridor all the way to the Central Coast’s North Western-most settlement of Bucketty. A Petroleum Exploration License is a precursor to a Petroleum Production License.
AGL’s PEL#2 also extends all the way South to Camden where the company has converted a part of the exploration license to a Petroleum Production License (PPL). Around Camden, against the wishes of a good majority of the local community AGL is now operating over 140 production wells. Some wells are within 200 metres of private property. One at least has already blown and vented gas.
The fact is that an exploration license is but a short step away from production. A PEL licensee must in fact demonstrate active exploration activity within the holding or run the risk of of the license being cancelled by the Office of Coal Seam Gas. Further, there is both financial incentive and a built in assumption within the license terms that fields eventually move to production status. It is also important to realise that the Baird Government is also moving to remove the requirement for Environmental Impact Studies and associated approvals for exploration wells within existing PELs.
Further, the many of us in the community who have heard of the disruption to lives, livelihoods, the local environment and the community that existing coal seam gas mining has brought to nearby Gloucester, Camden, and Tara (Qld) are not convinced that coal seam gas exploration or production is a benign activity. 98.2% of the Mountain Districts residents have stated that they wish no coal seam gas mining anywhere in their districts during a door to door survey conducted this year.
Mr. Holstein joins his Liberal Party colleagues in having been notably absent at two large public meetings held for the local community this year on the issue; a meeting held in June at Kulnura attended by 350 residents, and a meeting held in November at the Central Coast Grammar School attended by over 400 including all four Labor candidates for the Coast, the Green’s candidate for Gosford, and at least one Independent. No Liberal party representatives were present either at the “Leaders Listen” forum held at the Central Coast Leagues Club in September where representatives of the Labor Party, the Greens and the Christian Democrats took turns at answering questions regarding CSG. Mr. Holstein has so far not made himself available to meet with community groups regarding coal seam gas though we look forward to him granting an audience in response to our latest request.
The residents of the Central Coast simply will not accept coal seam gas mining within the area’s water catchment and aquifers. We will not accept the placing at risk of an agricultural industry in the Mountain Districts worth a minimum of $157,000,000 p/a to the region as a result of the CSG industry causing excessive water draw-down, loss of paddocks and fields, and industrialisation of the rural area. Once coal seam gas production begins the community’s voice will have already been long ignored and the Central Coast’s water supplies will be placed under significant risk.
It will take more than a press release by Mr. Holstein simply confirming the obvious – that no CSG production is currently occurring to mollify the community’s concerns. It will take the declaration of no-go zones protecting water catchments, aquifers and existing valuable agricultural areas from coal seam gas mining by our political representatives before the residents of the Central Coast will rest assured that their concerns regarding coal seam gas have been heeded. We look forward to the opportunity to properly engage with our local representatives and candidates for seats on the Central Coast, including Mr. Chris Holstein to discuss this issue.