Clarence Valley Council's resolution on coal seam gas (CSG) mining at the full Council meeting on 18th March was welcomed by community members concerned about the impacts of this industry.
The resolution called for Council to write to local state and federal MPs as well as the relevant state and federal ministers calling for a halt of CSG mining activity until certain conditions were met. The first step in this process was completion of a number of expert studies currently under way. The next was assessment of the studies to determine if the community could be assured that there would be no adverse effects on water catchments and human health.
This is the third Council resolution on CSG in recent years but it is the first such resolution since the election of a new Council last September. The previous Council's resolutions had broader support from Councillors.
The three councillors who voted against the motion on Tuesday appear to be supporters of CSG mining, although they did not state this in the debate. Reasons given by these councillors for their opposition to the motion were that council had no power in this matter, that writing such letters would not produce the desired result and that the council was ill-qualified to assess the industry's impact.
Certainly Council does not have the power to stop CSG mining in its area. However, like any individual or group of individuals, it does have the power to lobby other levels of government in the interests of its community. If Clarence councillors had been unaware of community concern, the Glenugie blockade of Metgasco's test drill site in January and all the publicity which resulted from it, demonstrated clearly that there was widespread concern.
Most other Northern Rivers councils (other than Richmond River Council which is based in Casino) have seen fit to support their local communities in calling for a halt to CSG activities.
Council's letters are unlikely of themselves to halt CSG mining. However, they will make a significant contribution to the groundswell of concern that is bombarding politicians who hope to have CSG mining go ahead. The more these politicians hear about community concerns, the more likely are they to act on them. So far we have seen evidence from both the State and Federal Governments that they are finally getting the message about how opposed to CSG mining many people are.
Of course Council is not qualified to assess CSG's impact – and it isn't trying to. It wants the experts given time to do this. And it wants a halt on CSG activities until the experts have delivered their findings.
Councillors Kingsley, Howe and Hughes are to be commended for bringing this motion to Council and for their eloquent support of it during debate.