Monday, 16 May 2016

Baird Government backs down after being sprung promoting NSW Northern Rivers region as having potential commercial opportunities for overseas CSG miners - but can this government be believed?

The Australian on 6 February 2016 raised a red flag when it reported:

The NSW government will ­release new areas of the state to gas exploration, with Aboriginal land councils getting priority to claim the leases following the ­decision of AGL to withdraw from coal-seam gas exploration and production.

The Baird government has bought back leases covering large parts of the state following strong opposition to coal-seam gas, hoping that two major companies, AGL and Santos, could develop coal-seam projects and demonstrate they could be built without environmental damage……

On 2 May 2016 a North Coast Voices post pointed out that NSW Nationals MP for Clarence and NSW Parliamentary Secretary for the North Coast, Chris Gulaptis, had endorsed the Baird Government's North Coast Regional Plan which included this statement:

The North Coast also includes areas of the Clarence-Moreton Basin, which has potential coal seam gas resources that may be able to support the development and growth of new industries and provide economic benefits for the region….

By 11 May local concern had grown when The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

The state government has been selling northern NSW to foreign mining investors as having "very good potential" for coal seam gas exploration, while local voters were told the practice had been stopped, documents show.
NSW is also being spruiked as a "greenfields opportunity" with "known potential" for uranium exploration, even in the farming region of New England.
The revelations threaten to bring the politically charged issue of mining back into prominence across a string of regional marginal seats, months after the government moved to neutralise the issue and stem a major backlash from Nationals voters.
The marketing material was prepared by NSW Trade and Investment bureaucrats and presented in March to a Toronto conference of more than 20,000 mining investors from more than 100 countries.
"The Clarence-Morton basin has very good petroleum potential," investors were told of a 16,000 square kilometre region in the state's northern rivers. "Almost all wells drilled … have yielded gas and/or oil".

That same day the NSW Dept. of Industry tried to close the door after the horse had bolted by stating in The Australian that the promotional material presented at the international conference had been withdrawn:

"The Clarence-Moreton Basin has very good petroleum potential for the production of hydrocarbons," the document said.
"The potential for commercial opportunities" within the basin was highlighted by a recent discovery, it said.
AAP understands the material was presented to mining investors at an international trade conference in Toronto earlier this year.
The documents also spruiked the "significant potential" for uranium exploration in Broken Hill and Lachlan in the state's central west, and in the New England region further north.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Industry said it had withdrawn the promotional material.

However this description of the promotional material was still easily found in the cache of the NSW Dept of Industry, Resources and Energy website on 12 May 2016:

XplorPak 2016 – showcasing NSW to international investors

11th February 2016
The Geological Survey of NSW team has finalised its annual Explorers Directory and renamed it XplorPak 2016.
As part of the rebranding, the product has been significantly upgraded with a modern, user-friendly interface and a fully redesigned image.
The package provides information on mineral, geothermal, coal and petroleum exploration and production in NSW, with links and data to help prospective explorers and other stakeholders.
XplorPak 2016 will be released at PDAC, Toronto, Canada, in early March 2016.
It is a free product and is available by contacting [my red bolding]

In the Echo NetDaily on 12 May 2016 Janelle Saffin, Labor candidate in the Page electorate which saw a decade of coal seam gas exploration and accompanying sustained community resistance, expressed the opinions of many:

Ms Saffin was blunt, saying the revelation despite the denial had ‘left the Nationals credentials in tatters’ and they ‘could no longer pretend that they supported a CSG-free region, when they have a state Nationals minister’s department promoting our area to investors to mine CSG’.
‘This comes on top of their state planning document that mapped and marked the northern rivers area as a CSG mining zone,’ she said.
‘It seems they are just biding their time believing that they can have CSG mining happen here, at some stage, the Nationals have been caught red handed – saying one thing but doing something completely different,’ Ms Saffin said…..
Ms Saffin said ‘no spin can cover up this deception. You simply can’t just say oh sorry, I overlooked the State Planning documents and now a international investor document and have us believe you support a CSG-free region’.
‘Both documents support the development of new CSG mines,’ she said.

As did Gasfields Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Elly Bird in The Daily Examiner online issue of that day:

Outraged by the NSW Governments actions, Gasfield Free Northern Rivers regional coordinator Elly Bird has said The Nationals are either lying to the community or they were kept in the dark as to the governments true intentions.
"First we see references to CSG in the Draft North Coast Regional Plan and now this news that the Department of Trade is still promoting our region as open for business for CSG,
"It's absolutely outrageous that this government is acting one way and speaking another way. Our National Party MPs are falling all over themselves promising that we are protected when it is becoming more and more obvious that the truth is the complete opposite,
"Our community will not stand for it. What sort of fools do they take the people of the Northern Rivers to be? It's obvious that the National Party cannot be trusted to tell us the truth," Ms Bird said.

In The Daily Examiner on 12 and 13 May 2016 Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan attempted what seemed almost half-hearted damage control:

Federal Member for Page, Kevin Hogan has defended his state colleagues and commended their action on CSG.
"I think the man and woman on the street in our community know that CSG is dead and buried," Mr Hogan said. "I think the government has shown the commitment to that with the buyback of the licences, obviously this is just bureaucrats who need to keep up.

But then Hogan belongs to an Abbott-Turnbull federal government which made its wishes clear within nine days of being sworn-in:

The Federal Government says it is intervening to fast-track coal seam gas (CSG) projects in New South Wales in response to the state's "gas crisis".
Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane has warned that thousands of jobs could be lost and gas prices could spike in the state if moves are not taken to unlock CSG reserves.
Speaking at an "energy security summit" of gas industry stakeholders in Sydney on Thursday, he said he wanted to see more CSG rigs in place "by Christmas".
He said he had spoken to Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell about ways to overcome resistance to CSG drilling from farmers and other landowners.

And continues to support gas industry aims as this 13 April 2016 report in Business News (WA) clearly demonstrates:

The question for Northern Rivers residents is; Can the Baird and Turnbull Governments be trusted to keep the region gasfield free?

No comments: