Coming to a town near you 27.11.2010

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My nutty obsession preoccupation with trying to stop our fig trees’ destruction for a year now has apparently resulted in failing to pay attention to some significant things.

Yesterday there was a rally in Newcastle to protest exploratory gas drilling that is going to start just 55km off our coast line in 2 weeks. Protesters were asked how many of them had become aware of this a year ago and of course no one had – but imagine how long this has been planned. The media release from the group Hand Off Our Coast, organisers of yesterday’s rally, from September this year says in part

“The government knows the potential environmental impacts of this offshore mining project are enormous. They know that seismic testing can disrupt whale migration, having an immediate impact on tourism. It creates a ‘fish desert’ in the area of testing, leaving commercial fishing operations without a catch for months,” said Cr. Parsons.

“Moreover, the risks of leaks and spills from the construction and operation of the platforms, pipelines and shipping would be an ongoing threat to marine life and water quality at our beaches.”

In another article Cr Parsons, Greens councillor in Lake Macquarie, says Advent Energy and Asset Energy, the companies responsible,  have restricted themselves to ‘the mandated “community consultative committee”, which is by invitation only’ and that ‘ Asset has not and will not release its Environment Plan and Oil Spill Contingency Plan unless it is forced to by a change in legislation.’ Great.

Another Greens politician, this time in Queensland, Larissa Waters from Queensland, was at a  forum in Brisbane about mining where she made comments that could equally have applied in NSW:

“I have a lot of difficulty with adaptive management, which says ‘let’s approve it, if they muck it up, they can make good’,” she said.

“Well how do you make good?”

According to a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald about fracking and mining licenses in St Peters – yes: suburban Sydney – ‘‘the state government does not conduct any environmental assessment of exploration drilling for gas into coal seams’ and ‘the majority of sites that use fracking currently are operating under exploration licences regulated solely by [Department of Industry and Investment]”, which [has] no environmental or scientific expertise’.

Residents in Sydney will be reassured – not – that ‘the Premier, Kristina Keneally, said the approved drilling in St Peters by Macquarie Energy is only for an exploration well, and if production wells were to be drilled, the public would be consulted.’ (SMH 15/11/2010)

I met a woman from Broke in the Hunter valley who talked about the community groups concerned about gas mining there which the Herald wrote about recently:

Much like the web of tracks that connect the fast-spreading networks of wells in Queensland and NSW, farmers, winegrowers and ordinary residents in the Hunter have joined a national alliance that wants a moratorium on coal seam gas [CSG] exploration and increased regulation.

Recently, representatives from Queensland, NSW and Victoria from industries such as wine and tourism and community and environment groups, met at Broke in what Hunter Valley Protection Alliance spokesman John Thomson said was the first united move in Australia against coal seam gas.

AGL’s Hunter gas project area extends from Newcastle to Scone and Merriwa. The company has drilled 22 cores and wells in the Broke/Bulga area. In Broke, five core holes were sunk as well as two test wells.

Its Gloucester project, centred on Stratford, includes 110 well sites in stage one and a pipeline to the company’s proposed $300 million liquefied natural gas storage plant at Tomago, which has been declared “critical infrastructure” by the NSW government…

This week, [Singleton Councillor Alison] Howlett moved successfully… for Singleton’s new Local Environmental Plan to prohibit coal seam gas exploration and development in parts of the local government area, including Broke…A similar resolution was moved by Cessnock City Council in October…

Two wells at Broke have been fracked. [‘Fracking is the injection of water and chemicals under pressure into the seams to force gas to the surface. The process can create large amounts of contaminated water.’] Two coal seam gas companies had to cease operations in Queensland recently when cancer-causing BTEX [benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene], used in the fracking process, were detected in wells.’

Scary stuff in our backyard – and the front yard as well. I suppose it’s reassuring that community consultation is not only (sometimes -?often) a sham at our local council, but every level of government. In the last week, in Newcastle, with the resignation of our general manager halfway through her term, the Lord Mayor made the point that council is’ fighting with the community’ on four fronts. Not a good look.

Stateline on the ABC ran a story last night about tensions at NCC and focused on two of these areas: lighting in Novocastrian Park and the skate park in Empire Park. The media release from council about Empire Park is an interesting read if only to show how an intelligent person can be made to feel brainless when it comes to details of planning regulation. (Oops – maybe I’m the only person who can’t understand it…)

I presume the other two areas of conflict are Laman Street and the long day-care centre in Merewether. (Correct me if I’m wrong, please.)

The powers that be know what’s good for us, don’t they? Home

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One Response to “Coming to a town near you 27.11.2010”

  1. Ali Says:

    Community Consult? No, its Community INSULT!

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