UPDATE, 4.45PM: A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment said the NSW Government had no intention of developing coal seam gas on the North Coast.

"The map in the draft regional plan simply identifies significant resources and industries across the area," the spokesperson said.

"It does not indicate that coal seam gas extraction will occur. This is consistent with the buyback of gas licences.

"Residents of Lismore, Casino, Kyogle, and from all over the North Coast region are encouraged to have their say by making a submission on the draft Plan by Thursday, 2 June 2016.

"This feedback will play an important part in the development of the final plan."

To view the draft or make a submission go to www.planning.nsw.gov.au

 

UPDATE 1.40PM: COAL seam gas opponents are calling on the NSW Planning Department to categorically rule out future mining of the controversial gas in its Draft North Coast Regional Plan.

A rally was held outside the Lismore Council Chambers this morning ahead of a meeting between the NSW Planning Department and the Lismore City Council.

Gasfield Free Northern Rivers co-ordinator Dean Draper said the draft plan's flagging of the Clarence-Moreton Basin as a site for "potential coal seam gas resources" was opening the floodgates for future CSG mining on the Northern Rivers.

"A plan like this just goes to show that that permanent protection is needed," he said.

"The next thing we know there could be another petroleum exploration licence given out, there's nothing to stop that from happening."

The Draft North Coast Regional Plan says "the North Coast also includes areas of the Clarence-Moreton Basin, which has the 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."

The Clarence-Moreton Basin runs underneath the Northern Rivers, with its mining exploration rights previously belonging to Metgasco.

Mr Draper said the millions spent by the State Government buying back the licences was proof they agreed with the people that unconventional gas wasn't appropriate for the Northern Rivers.

"For them to now come out with this plan talking about coal seam gas is absolutely unfathomable to all of us who have spent the last six years fighting it," he said.

Last week 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. To view or make a submission, go to www.planning.nsw.gov.au and following the links to 'Plans for your area'.

 

Gasfield Free Northern Rivers protesters outside Lismore City Council chambers in Goonellabah this morning.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers protesters outside Lismore City Council chambers in Goonellabah this morning. Leah White

TUESDAY 7.45AM: RESIDENTS from Gasfield Free Northern Rivers will gather today at Lismore City Council Chambers as the NSW Planning Department arrives in Lismore to brief the council on the Draft North Coast Regional Plan.

Spokesperson for Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, Dean Draper, said the people of Lismore, Casino, Kyogle and surrounds had been "left out" of briefings.

"It's just not good enough, so we are here today to send our message to the planning department," Mr Draper said.

"They should be offering a community briefing in Lismore so that we can clearly send our message to Minister Stokes and Premier Baird, that this regional plan must be amended to remove the references to CSG that it currently includes.

"As well as this removal we are demanding that the plan clearly spells out that there will be no unconventional gas exploration at all for the life of the plan.

"We want it made very clear that the Northern Rivers is a no-go zone for unconventional gas.

"We applauded the Baird government for their actions earlier this year, buying back the licences covering our region, and we want to see them stay the course.

"We want a government that reinforces its actions in writing, and what better place to put their intentions to protect the Northern Rivers than the Regional Plan for the North Coast.

"We're currently seeing an influx of Labor politicians, who are here to woo the people of the Northern Rivers.

"They clearly know what we want and are here seeking our votes.

"This NSW government, and the National Party risk losing the people of the Northern Rivers forever if they don't thoroughly follow through with complete protection for our region.

"Promises must be put in to action, the government must make it crystal clear what their intentions are for our region.

"If this government thinks that we will not remain vigilant then they are in for a rude awakening.

"We are resolute, determined and ever-watchful for any threat to our region."



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