Lismore’s Deputy Mayor Isaac Smith set to scrutinise Metgasco’s plans to test on council land for coal seam gas.
Lismore’s Deputy Mayor Isaac Smith set to scrutinise Metgasco’s plans to test on council land for coal seam gas. Jay Cronan

Lismore Council takes control on CSG

LISMORE City Council passed a rare urgency motion on Tuesday forcing all future coal seam gas applications on council land to be considered by councillors following news Metgasco had approval for extensive seismic testing at Rock Valley.

Residents alerted councillors to the activity on Monday after a drilling rig was spotted in the area and documents from the NSW Department of Primary Industries confirmed council staff had given approval to test on road reserves.

The motion was passed 10 to one with only councillor Peter Graham opposing.

"As of tonight no request can be determined by staff alone," Mayor Jenny Dowell said.

"We may not be able to refuse it, but at least council and the community will know ... at least we can have our say."

Yesterday council staff withdrew approval for testing after learning Metgasco had not complied with the council conditions and informed the company all future applications would have to go before councillors.

While council agreed to seek further legal advice, Deputy Mayor Isaac Smith visited the area yesterday. He explained local government remained hamstrung by a lack of legislative support.

"The frustration for us is waiting for the State and Federal governments to come up with a solution," he said.

"Everybody's concerned about coal seam gas and the way it will impact on our agriculture, our water supply and our environment ... there is just no hard-core research on what the long-term impacts will be.

"Fracking, no matter how it is done, causes toxic chemicals to be released into the water table."

Cr Smith added the seismic testing - a pre-exploration process to find potential gas deposits - approved over a 10.19km line from Chelmsford to Rock Valley equated to a form of "open slather".

"There are so many farms there and so many concerned residents," he said. "We can't sit around and wait for them to pass legislation ... we need to do everything we can at our level and that will include a range of options, including legal."

Last week Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson admitted the coal seam gas industry had grown too quickly following a CSIRO briefing where scientific officers confirmed there was uncertainty about the cumulative effects of extensive well development.

State member for Lismore Thomas George and relevant NSW Government ministers were unavailable for comment yesterday as parliament was sitting, though Greens MP and mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham was willing to wade in.

"I congratulate the Lismore City Council for taking this action to slow down the out-of-control expansion of coal seam gas," he said.

"The NSW Government needs to step up - I will be moving the Greens Coal Seam Gas Moratorium in parliament this week which would stop this industry while we assess the key risks."

Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson was not available for comment yesterday.


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