Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Media Release - The Stupid Country

As Dart Energy discovers coal and gas at Putty, 500m from the World Heritage Wollemi National Park, the community launches a campaign to have the area declared a mining and extractive industries exclusion zone.

Technical information on the quality and quantity of the gas found at Putty will be made available to the NSW Government in three months. The government will not release this information for two years. However, Jason Needham from Dart Energy told Kathy McKenzie, local Putty resident and chairman of the Putty Community Association CSG Subcommittee, that key information will be made available to the community after three months.

Dart Energy owns Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) 460 which was up for renewal in July and the NSW Government is still deciding the terms and conditions of renewal. The original licence’s condition of a minimum work program was not fulfilled within the initial three year period.

‘If my drivers licence expires I’m not allowed to drive why should it be different for mining companies,’ said Kathy McKenzie. ‘All work should cease until their licence is reviewed and renewed.’

‘From talking to people in other areas, coal seam gas extraction starts with one core hole and can quickly lead to pilot and production wells. Communities are given little time to prepare submissions to counteract the mining companies’ promises of riches to desperate governments wanting to stay in power and avoid recession.’

The campaign to have the Putty Valley declared a ‘sensitive area’ is based on the fact that it is totally surrounded by the Yengo and Wollemi National Parks, it is a part of the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment area and it has a high risk of bush fires and flash floods.

Mining and gas extraction near a national park risks contamination of that ecosystem and there is, to date, no way of ensuring that any extraction is limited to areas outside the protection of the park. The Putty community has received legal advice that drilling may ultimately breach Section 41 of the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1974.

The NSW Liberal & National Strategic Regional Land Use Policy document released prior to the election states that they ‘believe that agricultural land and other sensitive areas exist in NSW where mining and coal seam gas extraction should not occur’.

‘If the NSW Government is serious about implementing Regional Land Use Plans they should put on hold all licence renewals and exploration and production approvals until these plans are developed and in place,’ said Kathy.

Although Putty’s water runs into the Hawkesbury, the area is to come under the Upper Hunter plan which is currently being developed and is expected to be put on public display before Christmas. Only then will the public have an opportunity to comment with the distractions of the Christmas break limiting their time to make submissions.

‘Mining and gas extraction should not occur in environmentally sensitive areas, on food producing land or in closely settled areas,’ said Kathy. ‘You don’t need to be a scientist to know that mining risks water contamination and brings with it more people, traffic and therefore pollution. It’s common sense. Allowing mining to occur wherever resources are found, with no overall planning and assessment of our energy needs and no controls over exports is lowering our international standing. We have gone from the lucky, to the clever, to the ‘stupid country’.

Kathy McKenzie

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