CSG activity on hold in the Illawarra

NSW Resources Minister Chris Hartcher has announced an immediate halt to coal seam gas activity in water catchment areas in Sydney and the Illawarra.

Heathcote MP Lee Evans, who joined with Kiama MP Gareth Ward and a handful of other Coalition members to put pressure on the government over the issue, said the move meant more protection for his constituents’ drinking water.

‘‘We’re talking about pristine areas where four million people get their water from, and it’s important that we keep those areas as clean as we can,’’ Mr Evans said.

He said placing a moratorium on CSG mining in water catchments was a sign the government had ‘‘finally seen the light’’ by valuing drinking water above other interests.

‘‘Within the party and within Parliament we have been fighting the good fight, and obviously we have lots of mining interests putting pressure on the government,’’ he said.

‘‘This is early days, but it’s looking like we’ve got a positive outcome.’’

Mr Evans said the moratorium would stay in place until an investigation by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer was completed, after which he hoped there would be a more permanent decision to ban drilling in water catchments.

Mr Hartcher announced the moratorium late yesterday, saying no coal seam gas activities should occur if they were detrimental to the water quality and supply of Sydney and Illawarra residents.

‘‘The NSW government has imposed an immediate hold which will stop any activities under the Petroleum Onshore Act related to the commercial exploration or extraction of natural gas from coal seams within the Special Areas,’’ he said.

Stop CSG Illawarra activist Jess Moore yesterday said the temporary halt was ‘‘a win’’ for her group’s ongoing campaign, but called on the government to legislate permanent changes.

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

‘‘We want the land in NSW that supplies our drinking water protected ... [and] a permanent ban on CSG in drinking water catchment areas is simply common sense.’’

‘‘This moratorium doesn’t let O’Farrell off the hook.’’

Ms Moore also called on the Coalition to support legislation currently before the Parliament, introduced by Labor last month, to ban CSG mining in Special Areas of the Sydney drinking water catchment.