FEDERAL independent MP Tony Windsor yesterday agreed with gas producer AGL about the NSW government’s new exclusion zones for coal seam gas projects – but only in the use of the description of them as “arbitrary”.
Media reported AGL chief executive Michael Fraser as saying last week’s decision to announce two-kilometre exclusion zones around urban areas, vineyards and stables was “arbitrary” and had created a “disastrous” situation.
The federal MP for New England has used the same words but he believes the policy was designed to take the political pressure off the NSW government in western Sydney and the Hunter Valley, rather than deliver a fair and balanced outcome based on objective science.
“This arbitrary and nonsensical policy blatantly ring-fences the people of western Sydney while telling country people they don’t deserve the same protection,” Mr Windsor said.
“Such poorly thought-out policy actually increases the uncertainty for both gas producers and farming communities.
“We need a planning process that is informed by bioregional assessments that determine the likely cumulative impact of coal seam gas and coal mining projects on our valuable water resources.”
Mr Windsor said the Minerals Council in 2008 said it believed it appropriate for the Commonwealth to have a role in “strategic bioregional planning, pre-emptive of development pressure and across larger time frames. Individual projects would then be approved by states and territories, which would have responsibility to ensure that the project fits within the remit of the bioregional plan”.
“That is what I’m working to achieve, as I believe it’s the only way to protect our ability to grow food and fibre long into the future while still allowing projects to go ahead in drier, less productive areas,” Mr Windsor said.
Mr Windsor said he didn’t agree with Mr Fraser’s warnings of looming gas shortages if coal seam gas projects aren’t given free rein.
“Last year, the coal seam gas industry was running television commercials claiming NSW has enough known gas reserves to power a city the size of Sydney for 5000 years,” Mr Windsor said.
“So why not get the science right in sensitive areas first?”