CSG battle continues

No surrender: Multimillionaire Michael Seay was a regular on the Southern Highlands blockade.
No surrender: Multimillionaire Michael Seay was a regular on the Southern Highlands blockade.

Thousands of households throughout the Illawarra are to be targeted in the next salvo against coal seam gas exploration.

Activists printed 30,000 leaflets yesterday explaining why proposed drilling should be banned in water catchments around the Woronora and Nepean areas.

The fresh push came as activists including Stop CSG Illawarra co-founder, Jess Moore, met the five Illawarra mayors and state MPs for Kiama, Heathcote and Wollondilly to discuss tactics.

All oppose the plan to drill for gas in the catchment area.

"We want the 2 per cent of land in NSW that supplies the drinking water of 60 per cent of people protected," Ms Moore said.

She also confirmed that preparations for a blockade were well advanced should planning permission be given to Apex Energy to drill 16 exploration wells.

"We are doing a lot of logistical preparation at the moment but we can only prepare as much as we have information," Ms Moore said.

The company behind the drilling, Apex Energy, has earlier stated that it would not use controversial "fracking" techniques and denies any risk to drinking water.

It also believes coal seam gas is an important component of the state's energy requirements.

Confirmation of the renewed front came as Southern Highlands protesters abandoned a blockade at Sutton Forest after losing a court action against Hume Coal. The company had tried for seven months to gain access to a property and drill three bore holes for the purpose of coal exploration.

It has permission from the landowner, but the dirt lane to his property was owned by a neighbour, Ross Alexander, who supported the blockade.

At the core of the issue was a covenant on the land off Carter's Lane, which stated that the property shall not be used for any industrial or commercial purpose except agricultural.

In his NSW Land and Environment Court judgment, Justice Sheahan determined that "private covenants … are irrelevant to grants of exploration licences" and that regardless, this covenant did not apply to prospecting.

The court also ruled that Hume Coal was not required to have a Land Access Agreement to drive across Mr Alexander's property via Carter's Lane and that Carter's Lane was the most convenient access route to the exploration sites on the affected property.

A spokesman for Hume Coal said the decision showed the company was acting within the law in its exploration activity.

"While we are pleased with the decision, we are deeply disappointed that the owners of Carter's Lane and the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group set up the blockade and caused this unnecessary action in the first place."


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