Andy 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.
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.