TAMWORTH Regional Council has been drawn into the incendiary coal seam gas debate after helping scupper a move to ban the controversial activity on all farmland.
An ambitious motion calling for the prohibition of coal seam gas extraction on agricultural land was put before the National Assembly of Local Government this week.
Despite many of the 300 councils represented wary of taking such a definitive stance on the complex issue, the motion fell just seven votes short of adoption, according to Lock the Gate.
Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the lack of identified coal seam gas potential in the government area meant it was the first time the council had taken any sort of position on the industry.
“I wouldn’t exactly say it’s declaring our hand on coal seam gas,” he said. “I think the motion could quite easily have got supported if it was worded a bit more carefully.
“People are entitled to an opinion and it was interesting to see the vote. When it came to the division, I think there were only about 150 votes cast. I would suggest there were a lot sitting on the fence.”
Cr Murray said such was the emotion surrounding the issue of coal seam gas, many councils were reluctant to wade into the debate for fear of a backlash.
“A lot of people who are very passionate about some controversial issues also tend to be bullies,” he said.
“I hear from a lot of people who don’t like to state a public opinion because of exactly that.”
If passed, the motion would have added clout to calls for the federal government to impose tighter regulations around drilling for coal seam gas on agricultural land.
Lock the Gate national co-ordinator and Maules Creek landholder Phil Laird said he was buoyed by the support the motion had garnered at the assembly in Canberra.
“We want to thank Griffith (City) Council for taking the initiative to put this motion to the assembly and are heartened that it received such wide support,” he said.
“This battle is local, and it is national, and it is only just getting started.”