13,000-strong CSG petition delivered to O'Farrell

Pictured: Ryan Park (Labor), Jai Rowell (Liberal), Jeremy Buckingham (Greens) and Independent MP Alex Greenwich receive a petition seeking a ban on CSG development in drinking water catchments.

Stop CSG Illawarra proponents stormed Premier Barry O’Farrell’s office on Wednesday, delivering their petition calling for a statewide ban on all coal seam gas drilling in water catchment areas.

Nearly 200 anti-CSG campaigners assembled in Sydney’s Hyde Park before marching to State Parliament, where they handed over the petition, signed by more than 13,000 people.

Although the group was told Mr O’Farrell was ‘‘unavailable’’ to personally receive the petition, spokesperson Jess Moore hoped the document would trigger a parliamentary debate, moving one step closer to a blanket ban on CSG activities near the state’s water catchment.

‘‘We want the land that supplies our drinking water protected,’’ she said.

‘‘CSG exploration and mining always involves methane leaks and industrial development that is incompatible with our drinking water catchments.’’

Before the last NSW election, Mr O’Farrell promised the next Liberal government would not issue mining leases or exploration permits for CSG drilling in water catchment areas, Stop CSG Illawarra claims.

But Ms Moore said the Premier had not kept his pledge.

‘‘CSG licences have been renewed... in drinking water catchments under the current government,’’ she said.

‘‘The legislation must change and our communities will fight until it does.’’

The petition is the second of its kind to be delivered to the state government.

In 2011, a document containing nearly 20,000 signatures was handed over, calling for a freeze and a royal commission into CSG activities.

Ms Moore said the recent petition was a labour of love as volunteers had spent hours door-knocking residents in Wombarra, Coalcliff, Coledale, Clifton and Darkes Forest, explaining their cause.

‘‘This has taken close to a year; it’s quite an onerous process as the government will not accept signatures online so we’ve literally had to have 13,000 conversations with different home owners,’’ she said.

‘‘I think the most valuable thing is not just submitting the petition but that so many people know that CSG activities can go ahead at the moment in the catchment; it’s raising awareness as well as support.’’

Stop CSG Illawarra is now set to stage a public forum near Mr O’Farrell’s electorate of Ku-ring-gai next month.

Ms Moore hopes the meeting will spread the word to Sydney residents who may be in the dark about CSG.

Mr O’Farrell did not comment on the petition.

A spokeswoman for Resources Minister Chris Hartcher said the NSW government had listened to and acted on the community’s concerns to help refine ‘‘what are already the strongest set of CSG regulations in the country”.