Questions for the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure

Here is a list of questions that remain unanswered after the Casino “forum” with Brad Hazzard.  I have emailed Minister Hazzard this list (with a nice note, of course).  If he replies, I will post his answers.

I didn’t write these questions, although I would have like to – they’re very good.  These are questions other people wanted to ask, but didn’t get a chance.  (Please contact me if you wrote them and I’ll give you credit here!)  I’ve also included a couple of questions that were asked, but not answered.

  • Minister, many people in this community particularly long term National Party supporters are strong supporters of landowner’s property rights. The Petroleum Exploration legislation makes a complete joke of property rights, allowing miner’s to drill within 200mts of your home, giving the landowner no effective protection against CSG miners. Any ideas of ‘right to farm’ or food security are out the window. What are you going to do to protect the property rights of landowners
  • Minister you recently placed on exhibition Guidelines for Wind farms and commented that because of the ‘precautionary principle’ you were setting up a 2 kilometre exclusion zone around people’s homes unless there was permission or a complex approval process.  How is it that a renewable resource like wind farms which have no scientific evidence of creating harm are proposed to have an extraordinary level of regulation and CSG mining which is documented as causing damage to water, air and even causing earthquakes has absolutely minimal regulation.
  • The New England/North West strategic plan has been criticised by farmers as it maps very little Strategic Agricultural Land (SAL) and leaves out vast areas of important fine-wool producing farmland around Armidale, other wine-growing areas of the New England, and black soils around Wee Waa, Narrabri and Moree plus large parts of the Liverpool Plains. Why would we want a strategic plan here in the Northern Rivers when so little food growing land has been identified elsewhere and the plans fail to protect even these small areas by excluding mining from these areas.
  • Minister, currently our water supply through Rous Water is totally vulnerable to being contaminated by CSG mining without Rous Water even being informed of the drilling. What are you going to do to protect our precious water?
  • Minister do you understand that our community is not interested in your draft Strategic Land Use Policy or Aquifer Interference Policy, we simply do not want CSG!  Why does the NSW government continue to ignore the request from Northern Rivers residents that our region be declared CSG free?
  • How can the Government describe the existing plans as balanced when they only map approx 6% of the regions as Strategic Agricultural Land (SAL) and even that isn’t protected, but can be accessed for mining via a ‘gateway process’?  How can more than 94% of land available for mining be called balance?
  • Minister are you aware that Thomas George’s son Stuart is an employee of CSG miner Metgasco and that he is a Councillor on Richmond Valley Council and a Council representative on Rous Water and Northern Rivers Tourism?  Many in the local community believe this is a significant conflict of interest because of CSG’s impact on water and the rural landscape. What will you do to halt this conflict of interest?
  • Hasn’t the NSW government broken its promise to identify ‘no go’ zones for mining, because even the areas it maps as Strategic Ag. Land can be approved for mining via an as yet unknown ‘gateway process’?
  • The NSW government promised to apply protections up front, but this ‘gateway’ doesn’t apply until after the exploration stage.  Isn’t it too late once resources have been identified and money spent to then apply a strategic approach?  Why isn’t it applied before exploration starts?  What about all the damage that can be cause by exploration, as has occurred in the Pilliga Forest in North West NSW?
  • Why is there a clause in the Plan which allows NSW Cabinet to over-ride the gateway process in ‘exceptional circumstances’?  Isn’t that just another loophole to allow mining?
  • Why would the Northern Rivers want a strategic plan when these processes don’t even include a proper and rigorous cumulative risk analysis of mining in the region?
  • What happens to developments that have already been approved such as the Casino gas field if they are in fact on strategic ag. land?  And what about all the other industry developments that are likely to take place before any land use planning is done in the region such the 1000 well gas field Metgasco say they will need to supply the Lions Way pipeline if it were approved?
  • These Strategic Plans map high conservation value areas as Tier 1 Biodiversity Areas, but then does nothing to protect them and they do not even trigger a ‘gateway’.  How can we have any faith that the irreplaceable natural areas and outstanding biodiversity in our region would be protected from CSG extraction when there is no process in place to protect these areas under the draft policies?
  • Why doesn’t the planning process include social impact assessments to determine the impacts of mining on communities?  Why doesn’t this process require full community consultation before any mineral or petroleum prospecting occurs? Why don’t these plans consider the wants and needs of local communities?
  • Why is there no requirement for community consultation before approval for the two Petroleum Special Prospecting applications which have recently been lodged over large areas of our region? Why are any new applications being considered when there has been no strategic assessment of the cumulative impacts of the existing licenses.
  • Why are big mining and gas developments basically made exempt from the Aquifer Interference Regulation? Is the AIR just designed to facilitate re-injection of toxic salts and contaminated water from CSG back into our aquifers?
  • How will the NSW government respond when the majority of residents in our region declare our region CSG free? Will the government uphold our exercise of democracy or will they continue to represent the minority interests of mining corporations?
  • How does the Aquifer Interference Policy protect our water supplies, when it does not even cover the exploratory phase of prospecting, and thereby allows the unregulated puncturing of aquifers that are essential to agriculture and life?
  • What are the maximum penalties for breaches of the Aquifer Interference policy and Code of Practice; who are they enforced by, and how are they sufficient enough to deter industry from factoring them in as mere ‘operating costs’ and therefore continue with damaging ‘business as usual’?\
  • To avoid tax payer footing the bill, what amount of bonds/deposits has the government secured from the industry in order to pay for the multimillion dollar clean up required once the damage to our water, atmosphere, agriculture, health and roads has been quantified in 20 years time once industry has packed up and left our shores?
  • Under the Draft Code of Practice (p14), why does the government pretend to ban evaporation ponds but in the same breath allow them under the guise of ‘temporary holding ponds’?  When Metgasco has operated its so-called ‘temporary holding ponds’ on Richmond Valley Council land illegally since September 2010, how can industry or government be trusted to regulate this in the public interest and what is your government doing about the illegal operation of the Metgasco ponds?


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