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Policy fails to protect Illawarra catchment area

THE NSW Government has refused to rule out fracking beyond the April moratorium for coal seam gas (CSG) exploration in the sensitive Illawarra catchment area.

The NSW Government today released its long awaited Strategic Regional Land Use Plan and Aquifer Interference Policy to address growing concerns over the effects of CSG mining on water, health, agriculture and the environment.

Part of the policy introduces a new draft code of practice for the coal seam gas exploration industry.

Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazzard said the government is giving improved certainty for the State’s resources industry, by establishing clear rules and a transparent assessment process.

State MP for Keira Ryan Park said the policy, however, refuses to rule out future fracking in the catchment areas, despite evidence clearly indicating that the process is potentially harmful in sensitive areas like those in the Illawarra.

“This policy gives the Minister the power to simply ignore or bypass advice from independent scientific panels and approve Coal Seam Gas extraction licenses by a stroke of a pen around the cabinet table,” he said.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokesperson Jess Moore said the Government has ignored the Illawarra and failed to protect water catchments.

“Despite a promise to rule out sensitive areas, no areas are off limits to CSG under the new plans; every part of NSW is still up for grabs,” she said.

While the plans add a new assessment panel to the approval process for CSG mining on farmland, wineries and horse studs, water catchments – don’t even get a mention, Ms Moore said.

“Under the policy drilling and fracking are allowed in NSW water catchments under the new plans; and approvals can still be granted without an independent scientific assessment.”

Mr Park said while the community is not anti mining, people in the Illawarra want an assurance that the process is safe.

Meanwhile Premier Barry O’Farrell has written to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirming NSW would agree to new federal controls on coal and coal seam gas mining, making the state eligible for a share of $50 million in federal funding for environmental research.

More information is available at haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/regionallanduse

About Mick Roberts

A newspaper journalist, writer and local historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in the Sydney and Illawarra regions of NSW for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides authoring a number of history books, Mick has owned and operated several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and is now with Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.

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