FULLERTON Cove residents have declared the area coal seam gas-free, saying the gesture is ‘‘beyond symbolic’’ because of the potential damage the industry could cause to Newcastle’s water supply.
The declaration was handed to state MP for Port Stephens Craig Baumann and Newcastle City Council Greens councillor Michael Osborne on Sunday.
Mr Baumann said he would present the declaration to Premier Barry O’Farrell next week.
He said Fullerton Cove was one of the ‘‘most sensitive’’ areas in NSW that have been subject to coal seam gas exploration, partly because of its underground water supplies.
Dart Energy has one exploration borehole in the area.
The activities are the subject of legal action in the Land and Environment Court.
Mr Baumann said changes to the management of coal seam gas in NSW announced last week would restrict future operations in the area if they were approved.
Cr Osborne said he could not believe the NSW Environment Protection Authority would approve a license for Dart Energy, as will be required for new applications under the recent changes, given the importance of underground water supplies.
Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group secretary Sue Walker said the underground water supplies of the area supplied between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of Newcastle’s drinking water.
Mrs Walker said she hoped the new controls on coal seam gas would exclude the Fullerton Cove area but there were many ‘‘grey areas’’.
‘‘We presume (future) development applications will have to address the new criteria,’’ Mrs Walker said.
‘‘We hope we do fit into this but we just don’t know.’’
Under the changes, all exploration, assessment and production titles and activities will be required to hold an environment protection licence.
Mr Osborne said the Fullerton Cove community was united and the declaration was a strong message.
Town seeks offset for risk
By FRANCES THOMPSON
MOVES have begun in Gloucester to negotiate a ‘‘return’’ to the community for the economic and environmental risks posed by approved coal seam gas operations.
Gloucester Shire Council has written to the federal government saying the conditions imposed on approval of AGL’s stage one of the Gloucester gas project do nothing to reduce the impact on the community.
One of the conditions is a hydrogeological assessment of the project area, which covers most of the Gloucester Basin, to show interaction between faults, coal seams and aquifers.
The council says this is not adequate when considering the expansion of coal mining in the area and AGL’s gas pipeline to Newcastle.
It has made a ‘‘plea’’ to the government to halt all further gas and coal developments until the impact of existing and proposed projects are taken into account.
Councillor Aled Hoggett said costs to communities of resource development were not taken into account.
‘‘If we [the community] were a company, we would expect a premium return on our investment,’’ he said.
‘‘We take a huge risk and that hasn’t been recognised or compensated.’’
Cr Hoggett said there was a five-year royalty holiday on coal seam gas production, which further reduced possible returns to communities.
Residents ended up ‘‘subsidising’’ projects, he said.
Cr Hoggett has started discussions with AGL to negotiate benefits for Gloucester.
Cr Tony Tersteeg said the Gloucester community was in a ‘‘very poor’’ situation.
He said the hydrogeological study was important because past mining activity had left thousands of places where gas could ‘‘migrate’’ to contaminate air and water.
Cr Tersteeg said the entire town of Gloucester should have a two-kilometre buffer around it.
The council wants similar buffers to protect any residential or rural property.