ROUS Water has backed calls for a moratorium on coal seam gas mining across NSW – albeit with some serious reservations.
The Rous Water council has narrowly backed a notice of motion lodged by Lismore City Council representative and deputy chairman David Yarnell, supporting the NSW Farmers Federation’s call for a mor-atorium; and to pass the call along to Premier Kristina Keneally, Environment Climate Change and Wat-er Minister Frank Sartor and their opposite numbers in the Coalition (Barry O’Farrell and Lennox Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack).
The council also voted to writeto Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Federal Environment MinisterTony Burke, along with their Opposition counterparts (Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt), to raise the issue on a Federal level.
The vote barely made it through the Rous Water council. It was opp-osed by the Ballina and Richmond Valley representatives – Phillip Silver, Keith Johnson, Stuart George and Col Sullivan – and made it through only on the casting vote of Rous Water chairman and Byron Shire councillor Richard Staples.
The result has also provided fodder for Ballina Christian Democrats candidate Bruce Kemp, who has cited it among his reasons for positioning himself against coal seam gas exploration on the Northern Rivers.
Mr Kemp yesterday conceded he had not yet spoken to Metgasco, the most active of the coal seam gas companies operating on the Northern Rivers, but said he intended to.
In the meantime, he was concerned enough about the potential impacts of coal seam gas drilling on drinking water – notably in the Wilsons River, which is used by Rous Water as a back-up supply when Rocky Creek Dam sinks below 90 per cent full – that he was prepared to champion a cause that had little direct impact on the electorate he hoped to represent.
Ballina Rous Water representative, Councillor Keith Johnson, said he opposed the motion calling for the moratorium because he ‘didn’t see the sense in (Rous Water) politicking on the issue’.
Cr Johnson said any concerns about coal seam gas drilling were the province of the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water and it was not Rous Water’s job to police the way the department did its job.
Personally, Cr Johnson said he had read Metgasco’s responses as concerns were raised about coal seam gas drilling and said he was satisfied with them.
Lismore Rous Water representative, Councillor David Yarnall, said it was ‘important for Rous to voice its concerns as the predominantwater supplier in the region’.
Cr Yarnall said he had been looking at the ‘precautionary principle’ in lodging the motion.
“We need to examine it and make sure we’re not opening a Pandora’s Box and not having an environmental catastrophe on our hands,” he said.
“Once it’s in the water table, there’s no turning back.”
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.