Gas control plan foiled

DRAFT PLAN: Activist Graeme Gibson said council’s hands are tied.
DRAFT PLAN: Activist Graeme Gibson said council’s hands are tied.

UPPER Hunter communities hoping for more local government control of the coal seam gas industry are disappointed by Singleton Council’s draft planning laws.

The draft shows how dominant state laws negate elected councillors’ efforts to contain the industry.

Late last year Singleton councillors voted to prohibit coal seam gas in four locations, including Broke and Bulga and subject the industry to council consents.

The draft proposes to prohibit the industry from operating in four new land zones; primary production small lots, rural landscape, environmental management and environmental living.

But council staff warn it is likely the Department of Planning will direct the council to remove this provision.

Coal seam gas developments are state significant development under new laws that came into effect on October 1 and replaced the discredited Part 3A provisions.

Councils are not consent authorities for significant developments under the new system either.

‘‘Any prohibition on coal seam methane gas development will have no legal effect in the draft LEP [local environmental plan],’’ the council draft stated.

Hunter Valley Protection Alliance president Graeme Gibson said the government pledged to get rid of Part 3A but its effects lingered.

‘‘The council’s resolution was firm but its hands are tied,’’ Mr Gibson said.

The council has sent its draft LEP to the NSW Government for approval to put on public exhibition. It is expected to be on exhibition in February for two months.

The plan is Singleton Council’s response to a 2005 NSW Government directive to all councils to revise their planning laws in a standard format.

The Department of Planning declined to comment.