Gasfield Free Mountain Districts campaign wins CEN “Best Community Organisation” award.

All the efforts of everyone involved in the road survey effort, the community meetings and everything else we’ve achieved thus far has been given the nod of approval and appreciation by the Coast Environment Network.

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Gasfield Free Mountain Districts Co-Convenor Simon Perry gratefully accepted the award on behalf of the group at the CEN BAT (Being A Team) awards night on Wednesday the 26th of November.

The award included a $200.00 cheque which has been added to the group’s “fighting fund” that is slowly building in anticipation of costs associated with the commissioning of permanent roadside signs, and also the holding of the community Gasfield Free Declaration (February 28th 2015).


God is on our side…

…or at least Father Rod Bower of the Anglican Church, Gosford is.

The Anglican Church in Mann Street Gosford is famous worldwide for the socially concious and sometimes provocative messages posted on the billboard outside the church. From supporting Gay Marriage to calling for humane treatment of asylum seekers to simply calling out Tony Abbott for being…well….Tony Abbott the church’s prominent billboard says it like it is.

Which is why we’re very pleased that today it says this:

Billboard SqIt is of course a nice play on words in a number of ways, but “Mary” in this case refers to Mary O’Kane (NSW Chief Scientist” who in her recently published Coal Seam Gas review stated that “Coal Seam Gas mining (can have) unintended consequences“.

We met with Fr. Rod Bower a couple of weeks ago to explain what was happening with the Gasfree Mountain Districts campaign and explain our concerns regarding CSG mining and the aquifer we all rely upon and share, as well as share with the coastal communities of the Central Coast. Fr. Rod agrees with us that the risks to the aquifer are too great and that we cannot afford for the destruction of the ground water to be an “unintended consequence” of CSG mining. He offered to help spread the word via his billboard.

The message above is the first of what should be a series of such messages from now through to March 2015 (the NSW State Election), part of our partnership with the Our Central Coast / Our Land, Our Water, Our Future campaign that we mentioned in our email news update last week. If you didn’t receive that email – make sure you subscribe for the next one using the link on the top right hand side of this website.

The renewal of AGL’s Petroleum Exploration License #2

In correspondence with AGL’s Community Engagement team we recently learned that PEL#2 was in renewal phase. The fact is that as per the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 when a PEL is renewed the license holder must forfeit at least 25% of the PEL area on renewal “unless special circumstances exist”.

To be clear – that doesn’t mean that any area that is forfeited can’t ever have another PEL taken out over it by another exploration company – indeed the goal of forfeiture is to ensure that PEL holdings are actively exploited by licensees; licensees are encouraged to drill everywhere as quickly as possible to ensure they understand which land areas hold most economic potential for them before the next renewal phase.

Unfortunately (and unfairly) there are no provisions for the communities within the PEL area to provide any input whatsoever that may influence the consideration as to whether the PEL ought to be renewed or otherwise. Nevertheless, after consultation with Lock The Gate Hunter Regional Co-ordinator Steve Phillips we decided we weren’t going to let the opportunity pass to at least say what we thought. Anthony Roberts reply copy

Therefore in July of this year I wrote to the Hon. Mr. Anthony Roberts MP, in his role as Minister for Resources and Energy. On Friday last week I received a reply, and so we can now share with the community at large copies of the various correspondence.

To view a copy of the letter sent to the Minister click here: PEL renewal response Hon Minister Roberts-signed

(Please note I have redacted personal details in the letterhead of this scanned copy)

To view a copy of the reply click here: Anthony Roberts reply

(PDF viewer required)

It should be noted that of course the reply from the Minister said very little other than “Thank you” for giving someone in his office at least 5 minutes work. Such is the nature of things and little less than we expected from this exercise. Nevertheless it is important to look for the crumbs of value; and they are twofold:

  1. We have now correlated the fact that PEL#2 is in renewal phase.
  2. We have begun to more widely draw a line in the sand regarding public opinion toward CSG across the Mountain Districts, and the potential impacts to the water, land, lifestyles and existing economic activity throughout.

We will have to wait and see regarding those areas ultimately agreed upon between the NSW Government and AGL for forfeiture. Meanwhile the community surveys are actually very nearly completed and the exercise of entering the hand written data into spreadsheets for collation has begun. The Gasfield Free Mountain committee is also working on plans for declaring the results, and signposting the community’s wishes in an appropriate manner. More on those topics later.

In the short term; don’t forget our Coffee, Cake and CSG meeting on August 23rd, which is really shaping up to be an interesting session. We’re very lucky to have Julie Lyford, the president of Groundswell Gloucester coming along who will talk about the Gloucester blockade, and other resistant activities in Gloucester. Gloucester is on the front line in NSW as a community fighting for their livelihoods against CSG. The outcome of that fight will set precedents that will impact us all.

The message tree

Last Sunday a few of the Gasfield Free Mountain Districts Committee took part at the Mangrove Mountain Markets. Those of us there had a great time under sunny skies and really enjoyed the opportunity to engage with interested folk who came up to both find out what was going on as well as give words of thoughtful support.

John Edye and Simon Perry chat with Kulnura local Rob Meggs

John Edye and Simon Perry chat with Kulnura local Rob Meggs

Last time we were at the markets so many folk wanted to sign a petition or similar that we decided it would be good idea to have a “message tree” that can be a place for folk to hang their words, whilst our volunteers work throughout the community conducting the formal survey. As a result our committee member Poppe got creative and built us a Message Tree out of a couple of Gymea Lillies, which is a great symbol of our local area and indeed one that our parent community group the MDA has chosen to symbolise the Mountain Districts.

Message Tree 1

Check out the full gallery of Sunday’s messages here:

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Proposed changes to the Kulnura Mangrove Mountain Ground Water Sharing Plan

As an update to this mention of several of the CSG Committee’s members showing their support to the protests being staged outside the gates of ROCLA; specifically over the proposed changes to the Kulnura Mangrove Mountain Ground Water Sharing Plan, we have been able to source a good summary of what the changes entail and what they mean to the local community. A big shout out to to Ian Sutton, who has been spearheading the protests over the expansion to the ROCLA sand mine, for taking the time to help us understand the water allocation changes.

As previously mentioned, the CSG Subcommittee of the MDA is laser focused on the issue of Coal Seam Gas mining across the Mountain Districts. We do however share with other active community groups a concern over the health and state of the aquifers the current farming and environment across the districts rely upon. Hence we are very proud to have stood with Ian and many others from the community and from groups  including Our Land Our Water Our Future, Camp Quoll, and The Greens.

We all recognise that the proposed, draft water allocation rules are a green light to extractive industries (including the CSG industry) to accelerate their destruction of our land and livelihoods. It is important therefore to understand the threat to the aquifers that CSG mining poses in context of the bigger picture.

Over to Ian Sutton:

There are two significant changes being proposed for the Kulnura Mangrove Mountain Ground Water Sharing Plan (KMMGWSP). The first is the removal of the current 8 management zones and amalgamate them into 1 ground water source. As well there will be the removal of the maximum water take limit of 200Ml/year per square km.

The proposed legislative changes will facilitate a free water market on the mountain and allow trading of Water Access Licences (WALs) across current management zones, permitting increased water allocations in any part of the Kulnura Mangrove Mountain Ground Water Source (KMMGWS). This will allow zones that are already fully allocated to become over allocated, while other zones may remain under utilized due to those WALs being exported elsewhere. As well, the proposal to abolish the maximum water take limit will allow corporations, in particular, to come into the KMMGWS and dominate the market.

Recently, in 2013, there were amendments made to the KMMGWSP that saw 6 of the 8 zones decrease their Long-term average annual extraction limit (LTAAEL) due to the need to protect base flows, particularly along Ourimbah Creek. Of the 2 remaining zones, zone 1 had no change due to it being National park, state forest and drinking water catchment that does not allow the extraction of water, and zone 4 which was the only ground water source that increased its LTAAEL.

Of the 7 zones that allow water extraction 5 are shown as fully allocated, this means there are no new Water Access Licences (WALs) being issued within these zones. To prevent over allocation of water from any one water source, trading of WALs must occur within a zone, currently importing WALs from other zones is prohibited. To ensure water sharing is fair and equitable, water allocations are limited to the 200Ml/year per square km.

Of course the winners in this new free market will be the wealthy extractive and mining corporations who can afford to buy up all the WALs at inflated prices, while the losers will be the farmers and local small businesses that rely on an affordable and reliable water source. The extractive and mining industries all provide short term economic gain and if their activities diminish our water resources then the entire Central Coast community will suffer in the long term as water availability decreases and costs increase.

It is estimated that the KMMGWS provides up to 50% of the Central Coast water supply and any mismanagement of this precious resource will impact massively on our local economy. These proposed legislative changes are not being implemented to allow better management of our water resources, but simply to allow free trading of water and the inevitable mismanagement and unsustainable use of this resource.

Since the KMMGWSP commenced in 2004, a University of Technology Sydney study1 has been completed in the plan area. The study indicated that capping entitlements at existing extraction levels in these groundwater sources would protect hydraulic gradients around existing bores that impact on base flows to streams.

These base flows sustain our local environment as well as our local economy and the reduction in environmental flows will impact massively on our regions biodiversity. Wet plant communities will disappear and dry plant communities will dominate and expand their territories. With more gum trees forests and woodlands comes more bush fires and the drying of the landscape will only increase catastrophic fire conditions. With our waterfalls, rain forests and wetlands disappearing, so too will our eco-tourism industry.

The long-term sustainability of our local economy and local ecology both rely on best practices for managing water resources. To date the water resources on the mountain have been grossly mismanaged and much damage has already been done. The community not only need to oppose the proposed changes to the KMMGWSP but also need to demand better policies than currently exist to ensure the future security of our most precious natural resource.

To view water as an economic commodity is a disaster waiting to happen!

Mangrove Mountain June Country Market

At the markets

A blustery morning did not deter visitors to our local market on Sunday 29th June. Under sunny skies Anti-CSG Committee members Poppe, Sue and Lorraine greeted the community at the Mountain Districts Association’s Gasfield Free stall in shifts throughout the day.

We signed up more helpers to assist us with our surveys of the local district and were also happy to receive some donations from generous locals and visitors alike (thank you!). We had numerous requests from people wanting to “sign petitions.” However, we told them that our strategy of surveying landholders and residents was much more effective in achieving our goal of a Gasfield Free community.

Our BIG sign attracted plenty of response

Importantly, there was no one expressing any view that Coal Seam Gas something we should have or needed. Our custom made “big sign” attracted a lot of attention, and there was much support from visitors who wished us every success and would be willing to help if there was ever a need to blockade or physically protest. We emphasized that we are going to stop Coal Seam Gas before it came to that!

Having a stall at our local market was another effective method of us achieving our goal and creating positive community connections. Thank you to everyone for your interest.

– Lorraine Hawdon


Coal Seam Gas will destroy the fabric of this community forever

My wife Marilyn Steiner and I moved onto 20 acres at Mangrove Mountain in 1999. We were attracted to this area by the rural lifestyle on a block with a stream running through it and lovely aspect. Over the past 15 years we have indulged our passion for gardening and have created a relaxing environment planting hundreds of trees, and in the process, creating a refuge for wildlife and over 80 species of birds.

We were very disturbed to hear that coal seam gas mining could come to the Mountain. If it does, it will without a shadow of a doubt, destroy the fabric of this community forever. Pictures of sprawling mines, retention ponds and all the other infrastructure associated with this activity from other areas look like a giant spider’s web defacing the landscape. Our aquifers would be contaminated making the fresh water relied on by many for domestic and other uses unusable.

And in case anyone thinks this is simply a problem for us to tackle, it will also impact on the catchment for the Gosford Town Water supply.

From a personal point of view we have seen evidence of a woman in an affected area being notified that her home insurance would be cancelled if mining happened on her property.

We are outraged that governments of all stripes are indulging destructive industries on several fronts at the expense of the communities they are elected and paid to serve, and will strongly oppose coal seam gas coming to this area and to other communities.


Stephen Goodwin and Marilyn Steiner
Mangrove Mountain

Why coal seam gas extraction would be bad for our homes

My wife and I bought our first home together on 25 acres in Bucketty in 1997, and with our then 18 month old daughter moved in to a place of bush, koalas, wombats and quiet. We felt immediately that this is a special place; productive farms, clear and clean skies and water, and a richness of life in native forests. My own roots to this area go back further still, visiting friends who lived in a property then signposted as “Skye” just down from the crossroads on Wisemans Ferry Road. While we moved away for a time with work taking us overseas we kept hold of the Bucketty property, which became a home to a series of renters some of whom remain today in the district. During our time overseas we always took time when visiting Australia to spend time in the local area; until the draw of this place brought us back permanently about five years ago.

From St. Albans Common to Bucketty to Kulnura, Mangrove Mountain to Peats Ridge and beyond and between there is much to love, appreciate and be proud of.

St Albans Common

St Albans Common

During our time away it seemed on the surface that little had changed. Chicken sheds still lined the road, cattle and alpacas chewed grass, motorbikes still curled through the curves to Wollombi and most of the same people we knew then remained here still. We also found new friends and experiences that have become a special part of what makes this district a uniquely special one. As an example the Mangrove Mountain and Districts Country Fair has become a symbol to me of what this community can achieve when we pull together for everyone’s benefit. Meanwhile though the world continues to revolve and develop around us – the relentless push to dig, drill and pump for energy sources and raw materials has stepped up a notch or ten in pace and along the way communities all around the world have seen their way of life ridden over and cast aside. A community’s loss is seen as something that can be ignored as long as multinational mining and energy companies and their shareholders rake in profits, while politicians line their pockets and claim bragging rights about GDP growth come election time.

We recognise that we live in a world that needs energy, and indeed our own lifestyle would not be possible without it. We do think though that there are many ways we can source the energy we need, with many of them being ways that our political and business “leaders” are clearly ignoring even as all-the-while they engage on a dash for gas, coal and oil. We think that there are many places that have an inherent value above and beyond the calorific and monetary value of what can be pulled from the ground. We think that water is more important than fuel; food more important than profit; family, friends and neighbours more important than shareholder value. We think that beauty, bush and communities are something that have a value exceeding the gross domestic profit of the country.

I think that we get to live in the community we help to build. My family and I think that the industrialisation of our land, the permanent destruction of our water supplies, and the disruption to the communities throughout the Mountain District that coal seam gas extraction will cause are not acceptable outcomes for this district. We chose to live in this place, and we think that one of the measures of an individual is the willingness to say “No” when it is the right thing to do. These are the reasons why we will not accept coal seam gas extraction on our land, our neighbour’s land, or anywhere in our community. If we are NIMBYs then we are also NIYBYs too – not in my backyard and not wished in your backyard either.

We think there is a better way – if you’re musically inclined this sums it up very well.

Simon and Naomi Perry. Bucketty.