Councillors warn of barren wastelands in CSG debate

Wollongong councillors painted a dystopian picture of the region's future as they debated coal seam gas last week, warning that lush fields could become barren wastelands and Smiths Hill would turn into Smiths Island if gas mining went ahead.

Councillors were discussing a draft policy being created by the state's 23 mining-related councils, which highlights community concerns over the environmental effects of CSG mining.

A Stop CSG Illawarra protest at Bulli Showground in 2012.

A Stop CSG Illawarra protest at Bulli Showground in 2012.

The council voted to ask the Association of Mining Related Councils (AMRC) to include a ban on gas mining in water catchment areas in its policy, however, some councillors said this did not go far enough.

In a passionate speech, which drew applause from the public gallery, Greens councillor George Takacs said there should be no further exploration of coal seam gas reserves.

He said too much carbon dioxide was already set to be released into the atmosphere and cause global warming from known energy reserves, which meant it was foolish to explore new carbon-emitting sources.

"It's insane, it's absolutely insane, and I don't know how any government can do it, I don't know how any community can stand for it and I don't know why we're not out in the streets every single day," he said. "We cannot develop these reserves, not unless we want to see a planet that warms by six or eight degrees."

Wollongong residents would be "lucky to get another 200 years out of this place", as burning even one-fifth of the remaining coal reserves could see ocean levels rising metres.

"Imagine what seven metres of sea-level rise would look like - Smiths Hill would become Smiths Island and most of the coastal areas would look like Bulgo [Beach in Otford]," Cr Takacs said.

"We can't burn what we already know about, why look for more."

Vicki Curran agreed with Cr Takacs's views, saying the policy needed to be stronger and ban CSG altogether until there was clear scientific evidence it was safe. Independent councillor Greg Petty said coal seam gas would affect "generations to come" and spoke about his travels through Texas and New Mexico where he saw the effects of gas mines.

Cr Petty said the first time he travelled, he saw "a couple" of gas mines but when he revisited recently, there were scores lining the sides of the roads.

"Four years ago, it was very rich green pastures of land and ... this year, there was bugger-all grass and no evidence of being farmed," he said. "If that's the future CSG holds for Australia, or NSW or the Illawarra, I for one - and my family - will not be part of that."


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