CSG fight could return to Northern Rivers within the decade
COAL seam gas protest movement veteran Ian Gaillard doesn't expect the ceasefire on coal-seam gas to last more than a decade.
Mr Gaillard said it was only a matter of time before a move to restart exploration in the region reared its head again - despite the NSW Government under Mr Baird and Mr Roberts forking out $25 million to see the CSG issue go away on the Northern Rivers.
"Unless it is legislated by the current government that there will not be any future unconventional gas mining on the Northern Rivers then we would have to say... the groundwork is being laid for future economic activity in that realm," Mr Gaillard said.
"I was hoping for at least 10 years of gasfield free, but I think it needs to be legislated so that it is forever."
The recent release of an ambiguous draft North Coast Regional Plan by the Department of Planning coupled with new anti-protest laws has not helped trust in the Baird Government's long-term strategy over the thorny CSG issue.
The draft plan points to "mapping coal and coal seam gas resources" in the region which it says are a potential element of the region's energy mix and "improving information available on the location, value and attributes of resources can support expansion of the sector".
It specifically mentions the Clarence-Moreton Basin - over whose richest deposits Metgasco held licences to explore.
"The North Coast also includes areas of the Clarence-Moreton Basin, which has potential coal seam gas resources that may be able to support the development and growth of new industries and provide economic benefits for the region," it says.
It is this particular line which Lismore City Council has "totally rejected" in a motion led by Cr Simon Clough this week in a bid to see the entire region granted an exclusion zone similar to the status given to the Hunter Valley's wineries and horse studs.
The draft plan has caused outrage by the vocal anti-CSG community which has barely taken time to pause since last year's buyout.
But NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes categorically rejected these fears, saying the NSW Government had "no intention to revive coal seam gas on the North Coast.
"The plan does not indicate that exploration licences will be issued in the region, and we reject any notion that coal seam gas extraction will occur under the North Coast Regional Plan," Mr Stokes said in a statement.
"More than $27 million has been spent to buy back the exploration licenses handed out by the previous government.
"The plan outlines the buy back on a map on page 30 of the plan.
"The draft regional plan identifies all significant resources and industries across the area.
While the coal seam gas resource may exist - we have no plans for it to be developed.
"I will ensure that the final plan makes it manifestly clear that coal seam gas resources on the north coast will remain in the ground."
The draft plan remains on exhibition until June 2 2016.
Long-term, Mr Gaillard said he was "a bit cynical" about the future, no matter which way the electoral tide swung.
"A change of government and a change of personnel and they all come up with the bright idea 'let's to this again'."
"The electoral lottery can throw up funny things."