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May 192014
 

csg-4Andy Baker – May 20, 2014

The Review of Environment Protection Zones released last week is to be commended for endorsing the expanded use of EZones on the NSW far north coast. However other recommendations may actually weaken protections against Coal Seam Gas extraction in our most precious natural areas.

The recently released EZone review supports the use of Environmental Protection Zones on the far north coast and has even recommended their expansion in Lismore, Kyogle, Ballina and Tweed Shires where important environmental values remain unprotected.  While this is a win for environmental protection, other recommendations to rezone or modify some E2 zoned lands may inadvertently remove a regulatory hurdle for the CSG industry.

Advice from the NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) indicates that E2 zones provide an important level of protection from the unpopular CSG industry.

While CSG and other mining operations are generally approved at the State Government level and don’t require approval from local councils, a Council’s Local Environmental Plan (LEP) still plays a critical role in determining where these activities are allowed to occur.
 
All mining and petroleum production industries in NSW are regulated by a State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) known informally as the ‘Mining SEPP’ – State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007.
 
The EDO says that under the Mining SEPP ‘any zone that permits agriculture or industry (either with or without consent) will automatically allow mining activities to be permitted with consent’.
 

Currently, E2 zones in Byron, Lismore & Tweed Shires don’t permit agriculture or industry, and so CSG activities are generally not permitted in these zones either, except under extraordinary circumstances such as where existing mining leases apply.  E2 Zones prohibiting agriculture and industry therefore offer one of the few planning protections available at the local government level against CSG activities in rural areas.

Rezoning of lands from E2 to E3, which generally permits some agriculture, would remove a major regulatory hurdle for the CSG industry and leave our region’s natural areas considerably more vulnerable to CSG and other mining activities. Similarly, any redrafting of E2 Zone provisions to allow agriculture or industry would also expose these areas to greater risk from CSG mining.

Importantly, the interim Review recommends both rezoning of some areas from E2 to E3 and redrafting of E2 provisions to allow ‘extensive agriculture’ in Tweed and Byron Shires. If these recommendations are adopted it will leave some of our most precious natural areas more vulnerable to CSG extraction.

Those concerned about CSG and unconventional gas extraction, should immediately call on the Government to resist downgrading any E2 zoned lands, and call for ‘extensive agriculture’ to be prohibited in E2 zones in all far north coast council LEPs. 

Please take the time to write a short submission, to call for full protection of our forests, wetlands and wildlife habitats from CSG and other unconventional gas development.  

DOWNLOAD A SUBMISSION GUIDE HERE

 May 19, 2014  News