Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Reasons given by the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas for the suspension of Metgasco Limited's drilling activities at Bentley

Excerpt from the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas Executive Summary: Reasons for Metgasco Review Decision 26 June 2014:

The Director decided to confirm the suspension of Metgasco's activities because, in her opinion:

● Metgasco had not developed a community consultation plan in accordance with the Guideline. This was not to say that Metgasco was not undertaking community consultation, but there was no evidence of a plan as required by the Guideline and by condition 8 of Schedule 2 of PEL 16.

● Metgasco had not adequately identified relevant stakeholders. Metgasco's consultation efforts had been limited to landholders within 2km of the proposed Rosella Exploration Well, the Richmond River Council, local indigenous groups, and the general community. However, the Director considered that Lismore and Kyogle Councils also had a significant interest in the activities being undertaken by Metgasco and should have been engaged as proactively as Richmond Valley Council. Further, the Director was not satisfied that Metgasco had undertaken an appropriately detailed analysis of the stakeholders given the circumstances of the case such as local environment groups, chambers of commerce or other interested community groups. Although the consultation undertaken by Metgasco was active, it was too narrow and the identification of stakeholders was inadequate. Metgasco limited its focus to an area and people that it thought it could positively influence. This was considered to be contrary to the Guideline and accordingly condition 8 of Schedule 2 of PEL 16.

● the consultation undertaken by Metgasco had not been effective. The Director considered that Metgasco could take a significantly more sophisticated approach to community engagement than it had done.

● Metgasco's decision to defer a broader consultation program until after the Rosella Exploration Well had been drilled was not reasonable given the escalation of opposition to the activity in the Northern Rivers area from the beginning of the year.

The Director considered that Metgasco needs to develop a clear and sophisticated community consultation plan to deal with community consultation in the complex community operating environment of PEL 16.

In her reasons, the Director reiterated the offer of support which the Division of Resources and Energy, the OCSG and the Land and Water Commissioner is able to provide in this respect.

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