THE State Government will offer to buy back existing petroleum exploration licences as part of the new NSW Gas Plan.
In releasing their long-awaited CSG policy, the government promised to provide "world's best practice standards and regulation for the coal seam gas (CSG) industry, while securing vital gas supplies for the State".
They will also revoke all the petroleum exploration licence applications made before March 2014, which cover 43% of the state, and continue a freeze on licences until a new strategic framework is in place, due by July.
The government is also promising to "re-set" existing PELs, with Lismore MP Thomas George saying they will implement a buy-back of existing licences.
"This will come at a price but we believe that our land and water are worth the cost," Mr George said.
But there is no specific mention of the PELs held by Metgasco or Dart Energy that cover most of the Northern Rivers region, other than saying they will need to "lift their performance to meet the new standards".
Our community wholeheartedly rejects the industrialisation of our landscapes, and landholders across the Northern Rivers remain united in their complete rejection of unconventional gas extraction. We are bitterly disappointed that the government is still not listening to us
- Bentley farmer Meg Nielson
A spokesperson for Energy Minister Anthony Roberts said any buy-back would be on a voluntary basis, then they would look at PELs that had been dormant for several years.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers co-ordinator Elly Bird said the announcement provided no protection for the Northern Rivers and did not acknowledge the community opposition to the industry.
"It's also very misleading of the NSW Government to say they have accepted all 16 recommendations of the Chief Scientist, when they've done no such thing," Ms Bird said.
Bentley farmer Meg Nielson said the community would stand up and protect their land until the licences were cancelled.
"Our community wholeheartedly rejects the industrialisation of our landscapes, and landholders across the Northern Rivers remain united in their complete rejection of unconventional gas extraction. We are bitterly disappointed that the government is still not listening to us," she said.
Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson said he would seek a meeting with the energy minister seeking clarification of what the announcement meant for Metgasco.
"(We are) concerned that we have yet another NSW gas plan and that its implications for Metgasco and the Northern Rivers are not clear," Mr Henderson said.
"The Government has repeatedly changed the rules for the industry in its three years in office, discouraging investment in the gas industry.
"We have been a good, responsible operator for the 10 years we have operated in the area."