Metgasco suspension remains
By Kim Honan
The New South Wales Government has decided not to lift a suspension on a coal seam gas licence on the North Coast.
The Petroleum Exploration Licence 16 is held by Metgasco and covers the controversial Bentley site near Lismore.
The Office of Coal Seam Gas (OCSG) suspended the company’s licence last month citing a lack of property community consultation.
It has now reviewed and upheld the suspension of Metgasco’s PEL 16.
The Minister for Resources Anthony Roberts says the suspension will remain until the OCSG is satisfied Metgasco has met the conditions of its title and the conditions of the Activity Approval.
Metgasco is disappointed and is reviewing the State Government’s decision and the reasons for maintaining the suspension.
The company believes the original decision to suspend was unlawful and says it will continue its legal action if it considers the errors in the original decision have not been addressed.
With a boundary change at the next NSW state election, Bentley will move out of the Lismore electorate, held by Thomas George, and into Clarence.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis is pleased with the decision to continue the suspension.
"Clearly there’s fundamentally something wrong when 5,000 to 6,000 people, from all walks of life are so vigorously opposed to coal seam gas activity taking place in the region," he said.
"Broad community consultation is something that hasn’t occurred and that’s something that needs to happen and it’s not going to happen overnight.
"I think it’s something that needs to happen over a number of years if this industry is going to have any future in the area."
The Nationals’ MP has consulted with parts of the Bentley community.
"I’ve met with the Bentley farmers on three or four different occasions, prepared to meet with them again and I’m making representations on their behalf to both the Minister and the Premier," he said.
"The Northern Rivers has a clean green image and that’s very important for our agricultural base.
We’re seeing exports from the Northern Rivers into international markets, we need to preserve and maintain them and whether or not the coal seam gas industry is toxic or not, there’s certainly a perception that it is.
Chris Gulaptis, NSW Member for Clarence
"We’re seeing exports from the Northern Rivers into international markets, we need to preserve and maintain them and whether or not the coal seam gas industry is toxic or not, there’s certainly a perception that it is."
Anti-csg group Gasfield Free Northern Rivers says the suspension is a sensible move but had hoped for a cancellation of the licence.
But Mr Gulaptis says the cancellation of the licence would incur a cost.
"I don’t know what those costs are, I’m not privy to that sort of information," he said.
"I understand where people are coming from when they say they want a ‘gas field free Northern Rivers’, my personal opinion is I don’t see a gas field in the Northern Rivers."
He says with most people in the Northern Rivers opposed to coal seam gas, he doesn’t a gas field could happen.
"People are comparing the Northern Rivers with south-east Queensland, well property holdings in south-east QLD, and I am talking about those areas of Roma and the like, they are probably 10 or 15, 000 hectares on average in area," he said.
"Whereas a property in the Northern Rivers is more like 100 to 200 hectares so where we can have two or three wells on a property, they can have 100 to 150 wells on a property.
"They might only need 10 properties to have 1,000 wells, well at two or three wells per property in the Northern Rivers you’re going to need a lot of properties to make up 1,000 wells."
The Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan has also welcomed the decision, and congratulated the State Government for listening to the concerns of the community.
The NSW Greens say that any other decision would have been a huge breach of faith with the Northern Rivers community which acted in good faith by removing the blockade and the camp.
The party’s mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham says Metgasco should "cut their losses, pack their bags and leave the region".
Photo: The NSW Government has upheld its decision the Metgasco licence suspension until the company can meet the conditions of its title. Protesters gather at Bentley near Lismore last month. (Margaret Burin – ABC North Coast)