Casino to get first NSW coal seam gas liaison office


By Kim Honan Friday, 22/02/2013

The NSW Government will appoint its first community liaison officer for the coal seam gas industry to the state’s North Coast.

In total, royalties and licences fees from industry will fund 40 officers across the state with the first to start next month.

Nationals Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis, says protesting about Metgasco’s drilling activities were part of the reason Casino secured the first officer.

“It’s really important that the community has a better understanding of the coal seam gas industry,” he said.

“The best people placed to provide that information are an independent source like this community liaison officer, rather than go to council, rather than go to the EPA and rather than try to get information from the gas company themselves.

“If the industry is to go forward, then there needs to be clear scientific information and evidence based information regarding the industry rather than what I see, a lot of emotion.

“People are concerned, and they really are concerned, but I’m not convinced personally that the concerns have any scientific foundation.”

Boudicca Cerese, from anti-CSG group Lock the Gate Northern Rivers, says any opportunity where community can speak to government is welcome.

“I think the community is really looking forward to a community liaison officer taking back the community sentiments on this issue to government and that they’ll be taking back that the overwhelming majority of residents don’t want this industry imposing on our region,” she said.

“We’d like to see them pushing for things that just haven’t been implemented at this stage, like independent baseline monitoring on water quality, health impacts and emissions; asking for legislative change so landholders have the right to say no to coal seam gas on their properties and looking at the possibility of doing cost -enefit analysis of the impacts of a large-scale coal seam gas industry on our existing industries, particularly tourism and agriculture.”

Ms Cerese says the role will be of value if the officer is prepared to take onboard the real concerns of the community and feed those back to the NSW Government.

“If they’re just coming to sell the industry, to sell the government regulations, saying that all the checks and balances are in place, which is the same thing we hear from the politicians, then I don’t think it will be very useful.”