On 30 September 2014 NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson announced that if Labor wins government in 2015 it would establish a permanent total ban on coal seam gas exploration and mining within the Northern Rivers region.
He based this decision on the fact that this region has a clean, green reputation, vital water catchments, World Heritage areas, thriving tourism, dairy, beef and sugar cane industries, businesses which participate in the export market and communities opposed to unconventional gas fields. [John Robertson et al media release, 30.09.14]
However, when making this announcement he was careful to excise the southern-most part of the Northern Rivers from inclusion in this ban – the Clarence Valley 10,500 km² local government area.
Like other residents of this valley I know it also has a clean green reputation, the largest coastal river in the state, a vital water catchment supplying both the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour, a World Heritage area, a small working harbour, an estuary seafood catch valued at est. $47M annually and, a thriving tourism industry estimated to bring in excess of $65 million to the Valley each year from 922,000 visitors annually [Clarence Valley Economic Profile, 2012].
Forestry, beef, sugar cane and commercial fishing industries make up 87% of the Clarence Valley local economy, which along with 4,000 registered businesses (some of which participate in the export market) form the backbone of a local economy worth $2.4B GRP per annum [Clarence Valley Council Economic Monitor, June 2014].
In addition to which, the Valley has a growing population and communities opposed to unconventional gas fields.
I am not alone in wanting to know why the Opposition betrayed both the 2014 NSW Labor Conference resolution and the Clarence Valley.
Is it because it hasn’t held the Clarence electorate since March 2003? Or is it because the principal shareholder in an activated Metgasco tenement in the valley is ERM Power which donated to its political coffers in the past and, if the planned ban is in place this CSG tenement would be the only one that mining company had left in New South Wales?
Judith Melville, Yamba
On 29 October 2014 NSW Labor announced that it had included the Clarence Valley in its policy permanently banning coal seam gas/tight gas/unconventional gas exploration, mining and production in the Northern Rivers region.