A Mountain of resistance to Coal Seam Gas

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Over 400 residents of the Mountain Districts and the Central Coast joined together on Saturday the 28th (Feb) to declare the Mountain Districts communities Gasfield Free.

SMH journalist and former rugby player Peter FitzSimons and Cr. Greg Best (Wyong) spoke in support of the community’s intent to keep the coal seam gas industry out of the area’s water catchment and aquifers.

During the event, held at Neills Park in Kulnura, declaration documents were handed through the assembled crowd until they reached community elders Ed Morris and Betty Bromfield, before being then handed to youth ambassadors Leilani Healey and Jake Bright.

Gasfield Free Mountain Districts co-convenor Simon Perry said, “Residents of the Mountain Districts recognise that we have an inter-generational responsibility for the stewardship of this land and our water. The passing of the declaration statement through everyone’s hands, to our respected elders and onto our area’s young ambassadors represents this shared responsibility.”

The Gasfield Free Mountain Districts Declaration states:

“We, the Residents of the Mountain Districts Declare this district is Gasfield Free. We recognise that our districts are protected by the will of the community. We made this decision through community consultation and engagement. We recognise that our best defence is by standing together. If we detect any activity by gas companies here, we will raise an alert and ask their representatives to leave. We are committed to stopping gasfield industrialisation in our communities. In doing this we protect our water, soil, air and future. We will protect our communities from the destructive impacts of the coal seam gas industry.”

“Thank you to everyone who came to the event from the area, including Cr. Hillary Morris, Cr. Gabby Bowles, Greens Candidate Kate de Costa and Labor candidate Kathy Smith.”, said Mr. Perry. “With the NSW State election now just a few weeks away it is time for all standing candidates to take heed of the wishes of the community and if elected support legislation that permanently protects our aquifers, water catchments, farms and areas of environmental importance.”

The Declaration ceremony reiterates the united will of the community against coal seam gas, after a house-to-house survey conducted during 2014 found that 98.2% of the area’s residents oppose coal seam gas activity. Recently both Wyong and Gosford councils unanimously passed twinned resolutions reaffirming the respective council’s stance against coal seam gas, and standing in support of the Mountain Districts’ residents.


Response to Mr. Chris Holstein’s Statement regarding CSG

CSG Controls
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.

Gasfield Free Mountain Districts submission to “Your Future Central Coast 2031” plan

The Central Coast Regional Office NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure have recently produced a discussion paper titled 2031 / Your Future Central Coast. The Discussion Paper focuses on areas important to supporting the projected addition of  64,250 people to the Central Coast by 2031 – housing, jobs, transport, infrastructure, natural resources (such as water supplies) and services, and the question of how we maintain the natural environment.

Our assessment of the focus of the planning is that it is very biased toward growth and an expansion of the extractive industries and there is no mention of how the rural lifestyle in the Mountain Districts will be preserved and enriched. The plan assumes the area will continue to be a source of fossil fuel mining including Coal Seam Gas for decades to come, a position at odds with calls from climate scientists for a rapid move to renewable energy sources.

We therefore undertook to send a submission in response to the discussion paper outlining the community’s views regarding Coal Seam Gas mining. Our submission is here, for your reference (PDF file).

The Mountain Districts Association also undertook to submit a response, which had a far broader scope than the Gasfield Free Mountain Districts submission – going beyond the question of CSG to also look at housing, roads, infrastructure and so on. The MDA’s response will be published on their website shortly.

The Department’s planning process allowed for a period of community consultation. This feedback will then inform the development of a new Regional Growth and Infrastructure Plan for the Central Coast. We are advised by the Dept. of Planning that the draft version of the RGIP will be out in approximately six months. We will also be commenting on that document when appropriate.

Scrapping or diluting the Renewable Energy Target hands gas and coal $10B

Research shows power bills would not go down, but the coal and gas industry would reap a huge windfall should the Renewable Energy Target be scrapped, as is proposed by the Abbot government and their top business advisors.

As reported in the Guardian newspaper “Coal and gas generators will reap $10bn in extra profits over the next 15 years if the Abbott government pares back the renewable energy target (RET), and the nation’s electricity bills will not fall, according to new research.

Coal and gas generators have been among the most vocal supporters of reducing the RET, which requires 41,000 gigawatt hours of power to be sourced from renewables by 2020, but the research by Jacobs found reducing the target would also be in those companies’ interest.”

Read the full article here.

SMH: Secret AGL political donations while seeking CSG approval

Peter Hannam

Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

“Energy giant supplier AGL gave almost $100,000 to the NSW Labor and Liberal parties while seeking approval to drill 110 coal seam gas wells near Gloucester on the mid-north coast, but only half of those donations were apparently disclosed to the Planning Department making the decision.”

CSG mining and the need for due diligence when purchasing property

Much as been said about the downward pressure CSG mining has on property values. Of course the CSG industry will say “bumf and nonsense” to such statements. Michael Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of AGL is due to retire next year, and he is perhaps feathering his retirement portfolio with a swag of properties the value of which have been enhanced through the installation of a few gas wells, flares, and compressors, a garden feature incorporating a waste-water evaporation pond, a pimp-my-truck styled drill-rig parked in the drive.

Meanwhile, in the real world…

Curtis Associates is, in their own words “(A)n independent and licensed buyers’ agent located in the Sydney CBD which acts exclusively for buyers of residential and commercial properties whether to occupy, develop or as an investment. We are specialist and full time buyers agents free from the distractions of other business activities such as property management and finance brokering. Buying property is simply all we do and we do it well.” Curtis Associates “act as exclusive buyers agent in Sydney and as such, never acts on behalf of sellers of real estate.”

That last piece is very important in understanding what Curtis Assoc. has to say about CSG – because they never represent sellers of real estate they have no self-serving interest in downplaying any depreciative characteristics of CSG mining on property values. Curtis Assoc. charges their clients “a fixed amount in your price bracket and does not increase with every increase in the purchase price.”

Curtis Associates has this to say about Coal Seam Gas mining and property values:


“For those looking to buy a house in Sydney or an investment property in Sydney, the issue of CSG mining is a further and increasingly high profile example of the regulatory and environmental risks which can be encountered in the Sydney’s ever changing property market.

Nature of the issue

The issue has both public and private elements.

The public element is now well documented and centres around various environmental, health and safety risks associated with CSG mining especially to aquifers supplying water into the food chain and where the “fracking” extraction method is used.
The private element is of particular interest to existing and prospective property buyers. It centres around the law and other guidelines under which a party becomes entitled to explore for and extract CSG.


Curtis Associates go on to warn that it is difficult for a buyer to know whether a prospective property is subject to a CSG Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) and further that there is currently no law forcing sellers to warn a buyer of PEL coverage. They point to the Minview website as a resource people can use to see the gross coverage of the variously issued PELs across NSW, as do we.

Curtis Associates go on to warn:


“(W)hile development consent from a local council or authority may be required before a petroleum title can be granted, property specific searches of such a council or authority will not reveal petroleum titles over other land on which CSG mining might be conducted and which might have subterranean or other environmental effects on the land being searched.

Whilst it is possible to navigate through a series of steps on the DPI website to download an updated list of petroleum titles and applications, the particular difficulty with this type of property risk is that even if pre purchase due diligence uncovers a petroleum title affecting a property of interest, because of the exploratory element inherent in CSG mining and environmental effects that may be unknown (and in contrast for example, to a development consent for a new building), it is difficult to ascertain the future nature and extent of that risk.


We’ve heard it said by property sellers and those representing them that A). CSG won’t come here and anyway if it did my land values would not be downgraded, if anything the fact that I’m getting a royalty for a gaswell on my land is only a good thing. More income means higher values; and B). All this community noise about CSG, the signs along the road about CSG meetings and the articles in the local press are putting off potential buyers.

Clearly Curtis Associates has a lot to say about the validity of point “A”. The best way to retain the value of our land investments is for the community to collectively Lock Our Gates against the gas companies and Say No To CSG.

As to the second point; blaming the presence of signs such as LTG Yellow Triangles and those erected to advise the community about CSG meetings for downward pressure on property values is a case of shooting the messenger. It is like a seller of water blaming the inventor of the microscope for the drop in the value of a glass of water when the microscope finds the water to be teeming with disease causing microbes. The facts of the matter are; we’re covered by AGL’s PELs and that fact, combined with the real possibility that mining could commence have the potential to exert a downward pressure on land values.

Should mining commence, we will almost certainly find our land values decreasing to a significant degree.

The visible presence of community resistance to CSG mining, such as signs, is if anything a fantastic boon for our community and sends a strong message to potential buyers that they are looking at property within a community that has both a backbone and sense of community co-operation toward the common good. The surveys of all the residents of the Mountain Districts are almost complete and collation of the data has begun; we’re on track to declaring Coal Seam Gas unwelcome and unwanted.

PS. Don’t miss the Coffee, Cake and CSG session on the 23rd if you want to understand what happens underground when CSG mining occurs.

AGL’s free reign a boon for NSW? Don’t believe it.

According to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph “THE pressure on the government to unlock the state’s coal seam gas reserves has intensified after a new report revealed the industry could deliver 16,000 jobs by 2035 and drive down the wholesale gas price by up to 12 per cent.”

The Telegraph’s article is based on a report by the Australian business analyst group ACIL Allen, a company that has a track record of producing industry sponsored reports that conclude that the Coal Seam Gas industry needs to be given a clear road ahead to just get on with saving the NSW state economy.

In 2011 ACIL Allen published a report in conjunction with Santos that projected 2900 new full time jobs and over $15B added to the NSW State’s bottom line.

In 2013 ACIL Allen published another report, this time for APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association) which also concluded that NSW residents would see jobs and cash aplenty, if only all those pesky regulations holding back Coal Seam Gas drilling were removed.

This time round it is AGL, and again the conclusion is that – silly us – we just don’t understand what is good for us and we all ought to get out of AGL’s and indeed the entire CSG Industry’s way and allow them to drill everywhere. The only problem that ACIL Allen finds is that the populist NSW Government has reduced the opportunities for the CSG Industry by unnecessarily imposing things like 2km buffer zones around residential areas.

The pressure is not on the government to unlock the state’s coal seam gas fields, it is really on companies like AGL and Santos to take into consideration the collective will of the communities they target, from Gloucester to the NSW Northern Rivers, and through the Mountain Districts.

ACIL Allen’s executive staff have decades of Gas/Petro company experience. Whilst they are no doubt following a rigid analytical and reporting protocol in the formulation of their reports it is clear that they give only lip service at best to the concerns residents have over CSG’s impact to the environment. On Page 4 of the current report they say this in a footnote: “Analysis of any non-market impacts (such as the loss of biodiversity, changes in air quality, social justice implications, etc.) may also be relevant in assessing the full implications of a project or policy.”

Well…that’s that covered off then…

Deloitte Report finds CSG for export is a huge drag on the Australian economy


Deloitte’s “Gas Market Transformations – Manufacturing Impacts Report” (July 14 2014) concludes that the price increases for gas that will result from CSG being exported for sale in Asia will have a net negative impact on the Australian economy, and specifically businesses in NSW.

While the gas industry will enjoy an $11B boost, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and other industries will suffer a cumulative $32B drag. NSW is forecast to therefore see a negative economic impact of $21B, along with a share of the 12,000-14,000 projected job losses  that the manufacturing sector will suffer Australia wide. The Coal Seam Gas mining industry is an insignificant employer and will go nowhere near making up for the employment losses felt elsewhere, throughout the country.

At a time when the Australian manufacturing industry is already suffering from the withdrawal of major players including Ford and Holden such hits are very unwelcome news.

NSW Greens Spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham summed it up very nicely; “It is unfair that businesses and workers in the manufacturing industry and agriculture should have to suffer so companies such as PetroChina, Petronas (Malaysia), Kogas (Korea), British Gas, Shell (Netherlands), Total (France), ConocoPhillips (USA), Sinopec (China), Santos, and Origin can make large profits through their export LNG consortiums.”