NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s comments suggesting the government will extinguish some but not all zombie petroleum licences are leaving regional and rural constituents in the dark and farming districts at risk.
In response to questions about what should be done with the more than 55,000 square kilometres of expired but not extinguished petroleum tenements in north west NSW, Mr Barilaro recently told media, "When I do release the gas strategy, and hopefully not too far off, I'm going to use that at the same time to extinguish a number of PELS across the state. I believe a number of those are not economically or environmentally viable."
Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck, whose property is covered by one of the zombie licences, said the comments raised more questions at a time when the public needed answers.
“Landholders shouldn’t have to live in fear that they might be unlucky enough to live on a petroleum license that is brought back from the dead,” she said.
“These kinds of comments by Mr Barilaro create second class citizens - those he is willing to protect from the scourge of coal seam gas, and those he is willing to sacrifice.
"We want to know what talks Mr Barilaro and his department have been in with Santos about these licences, and we'd like an assurance that landholders will have equal access.”
Both NSW Agricultural Minister and Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall and Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson have previously publicly opposed the renewal of zombie licenses.
Mr Marshall has also told media that given the approval of the Narrabri gasfield, there was now no need for the zombie petroleum licences to be brought back to life.
“There's no prospect of them being utilised anyway, because Narrabri will provide more than enough gas for everyone for ever and ever… so let's just get rid of them, remove the uncertainty and allow people to get on with their lives."
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said she feared a party-room deal had been done without input from locals who would be impacted by the decision.
“So far the NSW Government’s Future of Gas policy, expected to be released in the coming months, has included no public consultation,” she said.
“Yet Mr Barilaro appears to be able to confidently say some but not all licences will be extinguished.
“The people affected by these licenses deserve a voice and a say, not just Santos.
“These licenses should be scrapped, and the region reserved for sustainable development that does not put our land, water, and climate at further risk.”