Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery yesterday congratulated the NSW Planning Assessment Commission on its "no-brainer" decision to reject Apex Energy's coal seam gas drilling licence extension.
Cr Bradbery and Wollongong City Council have taken a strong stance against CSG exploration in the Illawarra, raising concerns over the risks to water and clean air in the region.
"I think the PAC have just validated our stance by rejecting Apex Energy's proposals, but as far as I was concerned it was a no-brainer anyway," Cr Bradbery said.
"Producing coal seam gas or drilling in sensitive water catchment areas threatens a basic resource like water, and that's a commodity we just can't risk."
He noted that CSG drilling was still under review in NSW and commended the government for scrutinising the approvals process.
Greens councillor Jill Merrin, who has led the council's campaign against the exploration wells in the past 12 months, said she was thrilled with the decision to reject Apex Energy's licence extension.
"I'm overwhelmed by the positive nature of this decision and how well it has been expressed by the PAC in the report," she said.
Cr Merrin said councillors, local state MPs from all parties, council staff and hundreds of community members deserved to be congratulated for a long and hard-fought campaign.
"This shows the success that can happen when people keep working on an issue like this - it's a long slow process of gradually getting the information and persuading people with that information," she said.
While Cr Merrin was pleased to see agencies like the Sydney Catchment Authority take a stance against drilling in catchment and water supply areas, she said more needed to be done to prevent future attempts at CSG exploration.
"There are so many unknowns and so many dangers ... and that is partly what the commissioners have recognised," she said.