Regional communities are understandably concerned about Coal Seam Gas (CSG) activity, so it’s important to reflect on the significant advances we’ve made on this issue over the past two years.
In 2011 the Labor Government had been in power for 16 years. During that time they granted 44 CSG exploration licences across a quarter of NSW, including most bizarrely, in many of the state’s country towns and villages.
To make matters worse, Labor failed to introduce any regulations to protect our communities of our precious land and water resources.
Since coming to government, the NSW Liberals and Nationals have taken action, introducing the strongest set of CSG regulations in the country through our Strategic Regional Land Use Policy (SRLUP), which protects strategic agricultural land through the establishment of an independent and scientific gateway process.
Having introduced protections for strategic agricultural land through the SRLUP, this week we further strengthened the rules around CSG by declaring country towns, villages and other residential areas across NSW as ‘‘no go zones’’ for CSG. This means no CSG exploration or production will take place within 2km of residential zones.
We have also appointed the independent Environment Protection Authority (EPA) as the lead regulator of the CSG industry and we have asked the independent Chief Scientist and Chief Engineer to review all CSG activity in NSW.
These tough new measures around CSG are the result of consistent and strong advocacy by the NSW Nationals.
Nationals MPs live in the communities affected by CSG and understand the issues - that’s why they have been able to make effective representations and secure these key initiatives to further protect regional communities, particularly country towns, from the effects of CSG.
We have always said the Government is determined to strike the balance between the sustainable management of CSG and the protection of our land and water sources, and this week’s announcement shows that we are listening to the community’s concerns to help refine what are already the strongest set of CSG regulations in the country.
Andrew Stoner is NSW deputy premier, Minister for Trade and Investment and Minister for Regional Infrastructure and Services.