The evidence presented to the public hearing of the Legislative Council’s inquiry into implementation of the Chief Scientist’s recommendations on coal seam gas revealed big holes in data, risk management, governance, communication and understanding that will leave rural people in the North West of the state bearing the cost of neglect in lost or contaminated water, increased methane emissions and fractured communities.
The inquiry heard that at least six of the recommendations have not been implemented, including crucial recommendations related to data gathering, risk management tools, oversight bodies and environmental insurance.
The buy-back of licences and creation of no-go zones for coal seam gas entirely neglected the North West of the state. In coastal regions, licences were cancelled or bought back over Sydney’s drinking water catchment, Hunter Valley wine-country, and the farmland and towns of the Northern Rivers. No-go zones were established over urban residential areas. In the North West, there have been no areas made off-limits to coal seam gas, and 12 expired exploration licences linger over the crucial southern recharge of the Great Artesian Basin, the Warrumbungle Dark Sky Park, strategic farmland and major towns.
It’s time for the farmland, people, landscapes and waters of the North West to be granted at least the same attention and protection from coal seam gas as other regions.