Wingecarribee Council voices opposition to coal seam gas mining

Wingecarribee Shire Council manager of environment and sustainability Barry Arthur has confirmed the council opposes the potential expansion of coal seam gas and new coal mining in the shire.

The council has unanimously formed a position of strong opposition to these activities given the area consists of a large portion of the Sydney's drinking water catchment and is blessed with productive farming land, generous rainfall, aquifer resources, significant biodiversity, 40% of protected bushland and forms a significant link in the Great Eastern Ranges conservation corridor.

“The threat of coal seam gas activities looms as a potential threat that could devastate to the shire’s natural assets, the community’s visions, livelihoods, and public health,” Arthur says.

“There are a number of environmental risks associated with coal seam gas mining – contamination of surface and groundwater, impacts on water availability (both surface and groundwater), waste issues, aquifer interference, air quality, environmental health concerns, and interference to natural ecology and land use.

“The concerns raised in this submission stem from the lack of credible and conclusive scientific evidence to provide the assurance that such activities will not have a long term and irreparable impact upon the environment, including groundwater reserves within the shire or upon Sydney's drinking water catchment.”

The submission notes the NSW government has committed to strategic regional land-use policy plans.

“Council supports this process and eagerly awaits progress in this area, particularly given the regional significance of the shire in reference to the Sydney drinking water catchment, productive agricultural land, and the Sydney-to-Canberra growth corridor,” Arthur says.

“Council asks that the NSW government to bring forward this process, and prevent coal seam gas activities from occurring until it is rigorously assessed in the regional significance context, and let regional priorities guide decision making processes regarding coal seam gas activities, and not the other way around.

“Wingecarribee Shire Council has been assured that we will be included in both the strategic land use planning process and the aquifer interference policy by Minister [Chris] Hartcher and also the NSW Office of Water.”

The council has asked that there be no advancement in approving coal seam gas activities in the region until the strategic framework is completed.

“The precautionary principle should be invoked at this time as it is not possible to guarantee that there would be no negative impacts from coal seam gas activities.

“Adherence to the precautionary principle becomes even more important (and logical) when you consider the regional significance of the Southern Highlands, and the role it plays in Sydney's drinking water catchment

“These assets must not be put at risk.

“While there are alternative energy options for the future of the state, there are few alternative options with respect to Sydney's drinking water security, or productive land security.”

The submission notes the public opposition to these activities in the shire is significant and can be seen most dramatically in support received so far to the work of the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group (SHCAG).

Property owners fighting coal seam gas mining exploration around precious aquifers of the Southern Highlands have been hoping – to no avail so far – that local rural estate owners Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban will soon join their battle. 

However, Alan Jones and Michael Ball have gotten behind the campaign, as have many residents in the area.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of our authors. Jonathan has been writing about property since the early 1980s and is editor-at-large of Property Observer.

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