LOCAL concerns about the prospect of Coal Seam Gas drilling in the Manning and Hastings Valleys was raised in State Parliament by the Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams.
“Soon after being elected, I was contacted by and met with members of the Camden Haven Anti-Fracking Group and have subsequently written to all of their members to keep them informed about Coal Seam Gas issues.
“Imagine my surprise when I read in the Manning River Times that according to a group called the Manning Alliance, I had been “absent from the community debate on the issue.” So being the person that I am, I picked up the phone and called one of the members of this group and then travelled to Taree to meet with them.
“At the same meeting were members of the Manning Clean Water Action Group. After a long chat, these members have legitimate concerns that areas of the Manning and Hastings Valleys will be targeted for drilling. To date, to the best of my knowledge, there has only been surveying work conducted,” Mrs Williams said.
“The Manning Alliance Group are not adverse to Coal Seam Gas drilling, they just don’t want it in the Manning Valley. The Manning Clean Water Action Group have similar concerns. They have asked me a range of questions in relation to the legal rights of property owners when and if it comes time to negotiate with Coal Seam Gas companies, as well as the impact on property values. The group feels that our area has many older farmers and battlers who are worried about any uncertainty of how Coal Seam Gas drilling will be rolled out and the potential effect it will have on prime agricultural lands,” Mrs Williams said.
“Despite the Liberals & Nationals Government banning BETX chemicals in fraccing and in fact implementing a moratorium on fraccing until 31st December 2011, both groups are concerned about the fraccing process. The effect Coal Seam Gas drilling will have on aquifers and surface water is also something the Manning Alliance has issues with, along with the level of safe guards to protect the environment. All three groups have raised concerns on the protection of food production industries like beef, milk, fruit, vegetables and seafood production. This is just a snapshot of the many and varied list of issues these groups want answers to. These groups are to be commended for bringing their concerns to the attention of the community. When there is new technology or a new process that has previously not occurred in areas like the Mid North Coast, there will always be a level of cynicism. Despite the fact the Manning Alliance and Manning Clean Water Action Group wanted me to declare outright that I oppose Coal Seam Gas drilling, I won’t,” Mrs Williams said.
“What I will do is to continue to strongly urge the O’Farrell / Stoner Government to proceed with caution and to continue to implement environmental safeguards for all types of mining.
“Clearly there must be a balance for both farming and mining, it is our job as legislators to develop a way for both to co-exist. Through the Strategic Land Use Policy, the Coalition is about delivering a balance involving members of the community in decision making and giving farmers and industry greater control over their futures. That is why we are delivering the most stringent environmental standards for Coal Seam Gas in Australia. It is also why we are further developing rigorous groundwater regulations, reviewing fraccing standards and reviewing access arrangements.”