Keira MP Ryan Park has rejected claims that NSW Labor’s new policy of a blanket ban on coal seam gas activity within the Sydney drinking-water catchment is politically motivated.
The policy, announced yesterday, comes just two weeks shy of the federal election and days after a 13,000-signature petition, calling for a ban on CSG drilling, was delivered to Premier Barry O’Farrell’s door.
Mr Park, who has been vocal in his opposition to CSG near the catchment, said the announcement was not a political move.
‘‘I’ve said frequently that [CSG activity] has not been handled as well as it could be,’’ he said.
‘‘I thought it was time to set the record straight and go back to a sensible policy approach; I’ve been fighting for two years outside and within the party to make it clear I thought we got this wrong...this is not a political point but about basic common sense, no-one is anti-industry or development but we want it done in the right locations.
‘‘This is not about me claiming credit for anything; I’m just glad we’ve finally got a shift on this.’’
State Labor’s policy would ban any CSG drilling and extraction in the catchment’s ‘‘special areas’’.
Mr Park said he was ‘‘frustrated’’ that the current government had not honoured its pre-election promise to adopt a ban on CSG near the catchment.
He hoped Labor’s recent policy shift would put pressure on the NSW government to follow suit.
‘‘The current government has not been quick enough to demonstrate change on this,’’ Mr Park said.
‘‘We want to try and encourage [them] to adopt this policy; I think the opposition is not just about criticising the government but putting up alternative policies...we need to lead.’’
State Labor’s approval of the policy is a win for anti-CSG campaigners who have been fighting against drilling and mining in the region’s water catchment.
Mr Park said the concerns of the community should not be ignored.
‘‘We are fortunate to have safe, secure drinking water; the community has seen past scares and things going wrong near the catchment and they are aware of the sensitive nature of the water catchment.’’
Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher yesterday slammed the former NSW Labor government’s approach to CSG.
‘‘Under the [former government], coal seam gas exploration licences were approved and renewed with no community awareness or input and with no concern for agricultural or environmental impacts.’’
He said NSW had the toughest regulations nationwide on CSG activity.
“This government has worked meticulously to develop new initiatives to ensure CSG activities are carried out responsibly and with the proper environmental and health safeguards in place,’’ he said.
“In NSW, there are 30 difference pieces of legislation and controls in place to protect water resources, including from any potential impacts of CSG exploration and production.”
Two CSG exploration licences have been granted in the Illawarra, with licence renewals now on hold pending a review.