REGIONAL communities are understandably concerned about coal seam gas activity, so it’s important to reflect on the significant advances we’ve made on this issue over the past two years.
In 2011 the Labor government had been in power for 16 years. During that time they granted 44 coal seam gas exploration licences across a quarter of NSW, including most bizarrely, in many of the state’s country towns and villages.
To make matters worse Labor failed to introduce any regulations to protect our communities or our precious land and water resources.
Since coming to government the NSW Liberals and Nationals have taken action, introducing the strongest set of coal seam gas regulations in the country through our Strategic Regional Land Use Policy (SRLUP), which protects strategic agricultural land through the establishment of an independent and scientific gateway process.
Having introduced protections for strategic agricultural land through the SRLUP, this week we further strengthened the rules around coal seam gas by declaring country towns, villages and other residential areas across NSW as “no go zones” for coal seam gas. This means no coal seam gas exploration or production will take place within 2km of residential zones.
We have also appointed the independent Environment Protection Authority (EPA) as the lead regulator of the coal seam gas industry and we have asked the independent chief scientist and chief engineer to review all coal seam gas activity in NSW.
These tough new measures around coal seam gas are the result of consistent and strong advocacy by the NSW Nationals.
Nationals MPs live in the communities affected by coal seam gas and understand the issues – that’s why they have been able to make effective representations and secure these key initiatives to further protect regional communities, particularly country towns, from the effects of coal seam gas.
We have always said the government is determined to strike the balance between the sustainable management of coal seam gas and the protection of our land and water sources, and this week,s announcement shows that we are listening to the community’s concerns to help refine what are already the strongest set of coal seam gas regulations in the country.