“Angst”, one small word that encompasses so many emotions; one that I used often in a meeting, last week, with Chris Hartcher, Minister for Resources and Energy.
Our discussions centred around the proposed amendment to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) which, among other things, seeks to make the ‘significance of the resource the consent authority’s principle consideration…..when determining a resource DA’. According to the Minister, in legal terminology, the amendment does not favour any industry or natural resource over another. As a ‘layperson’ I had to disagree and after watching the 7:30 Report (ABC) on Friday night, it would appear I am not the only one.
The various policies of CWA of NSW are, in a nut shell, to request State and Federal Governments to develop legislation that protects agricultural land and ground and surface water systems (including the Great Artesian Basin), from adverse impacts of mining and other extractive industries. So when the Chief Scientist and Engineer’s Initial Report on the Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities was released my first thoughts on reading Professor Mary O’Kane’s recommendations were; ‘at last, somebody is listening!’ Then, a couple of days later, the release for comment, of the above amendment to the SEPP; I can assure you it was a fast return to “terra firma”! Luckily it was a patch that had not been dug up….
Now, before the ‘buts’ start, I know they relate to different extractive industries and governing is not as simple as I would like it to be. However the affects, of the wording contained in the SEPP, are more “angst” and distrust. The United Nations principle of balancing the social, economic and environmental capital or ‘triple bottom line’ of sustainable development, seems to have lost ‘economic ‘to the other side of the see saw.
Having got all that off my chest, the Minister and I also discussed the role of the Environmental Protection Agency’s new compliance arm and whether they would be adequately resourced; what guarantees are in place to ensure that increases in CSG production would stay in NSW and not be sold overseas; whether open cut mining would follow CSG extraction and the difficulty of accessing factual information. Minister Hartcher has offered to work with us on these issues and to assist us by providing resources and information where possible to our members and their communities.
I am confident that the Minister will be happy to progress communication around the very valid concerns of our members and their communities and the government’s need to balance the budget, create investment in/opportunities for communities whilst averting a possible energy shortfall and the backlash over increased pricing.