Coal mining and gas production in the water catchment have emerged as a major issue for voters in the northern Illawarra electorate of Heathcote, prompting MP Lee Evans to stake his reputation on a promise no more CSG will be allowed there.
A recent ReachTel poll found more than 80 per cent of voters in the leafy district are concerned about the effect of CSG (coal seam gas) and coal in the catchment area.
In the poll, commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), ReachTel questioned 686 people in Heathcote on March 17, the day after Energy Minister Anthony Roberts announced the government had bought back the three CSG exploration licences held by Apex Energy in the Illawarra region's catchment.
There will not be any CSG in the water catchment areas in the seat of Heathcote while I'm the member.Heathcote MP Lee Evans
The poll found 58 per cent were "very concerned" and 28 per cent "concerned" about the effect on the catchment, while 80 per cent said the government should keep its promise to stop CSG in water catchment areas.
Heathcote voters were also asked about Wollongong Coal's plans for longwall mining under the catchment area, with 59 per cent opposing the plan. Almost 30 per cent were undecided on this question. The mine sits in the electorate of Keira, not Heathcote.
ACF campaigner Nic Clyde said if CSG leases were bought back in the catchment, the mining proposal should be banned as well.
"Minister Roberts is right to say these areas are sensitive and important for our drinking water and that is precisely why coal mining should also be prohibited there," he said.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission will deliver its verdict on the mine plan on April 10.
While the CSG licences have been bought back, critics say under the government's gas plan it is possible they could be reissued in the future.
But on Wednesday, Mr Evans said he would "guarantee" voters that no more exploration would be allowed in the catchment while he was the member.
"There will not be any CSG in the water catchment areas in the seat of Heathcote while I'm the member," he said.
"That's the line in the sand and if they want to change that, they're going to have to deal with me, who they've already dealt with.
"I wouldn't be a member of Parliament if my party gave me a commitment that it's not going to happen and then turned around and did something different."
Labor has promised an outright ban on CSG in the catchment.
The issue does not appear to threaten Mr Evans' chances of re-election - 41.4 per cent said they would give him their first preference, ahead of 31.7 per cent for Labor's Maryanne Stewart, and 9.3 for the Greens' Natasha Watson.
Heathcote extends from Wombarra to Menai.