"NO coal seam gas, no coal seam gas."
This was the chant that erupted yesterday afternoon at the Casino RSM club at the end of a two hour public meeting that was called to discuss the O'Farrell Government's draft Regional Strategic Land use policy.
Anti-coal seam gas (CSG) signs and banners adorned the room and it didn't take long for NSW planning minister Brad Hazzard to realise he would be fielding few questions about the land use policy.
People from children to adults were adorned in their Don't frack with me anti CSG T-shirts, some of them standing defiantly with signs in their hands and their mouths taped up for the duration of the meeting.
The meeting, which was called by Lismore MP Thomas George, was opened by Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis before Mr Hazzard spoke for 15 minutes and then took questions from the passionate public gallery for an hour and 45 minutes.
Mr Hazzard said the O'Farrell government was well aware of the risks associated with CSG mining.
He said since it was elected last year the O'Farrell government had put a moratorium on new CSG licences and established a new aquifer interference regulation.
"Damage to aquifers is one of the biggest risks of any sort of mining," he said.
"We are a government that are very serious about trying the find the right balance."
He said the government was in the process of mapping the entire state to ensure sensitive areas are protected from any mining.
When Mr Hazzard opened the floor up to questions he got to see first-hand the passion held by many Northern Rivers residents over this controversial issue.
From chants of 'just say no', to people in the crowd yelling 'the sun is free', they made their opinions heard.
Proudly sporting a No CSG badge, Lismore councillor Simon Clough said CSG mining would affect everyone in the Northern Rivers.
"We are all at risk," he said.
"Its not just about farms, it's about water."
Mr Hazzard said one of the best questions came from a man who asked why people can't vote for their preferred choice from a list of options of power and fuel sources.
Mr Hazzard said he encouraged people to send submissions concerning the Regional Strategic Land Use policy to the Department of Planning by May 3.
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