Opposition leader John Robertson with Country Labor candidate for Clarence Peter Ellem.
Opposition leader John Robertson with Country Labor candidate for Clarence Peter Ellem. Adam Hourigan

Putting CSG on the back-burner

COUNTRY Labor has re-affirmed its stance against coal seam gas extraction until a scientific consensus on its effects on groundwater and aquifers has been reached.

That could mean decades could pass before CSG mining was allowed in the Clarence Valley under a NSW Labour government.

"The National Water Commission is saying things like it will be 15 to 20 years before we fully understand the long-term effects of CSG extraction," said NSW Opposition leader John Robertson.

"We need to make sure we are not going to compromise water security. Frankly, we need to make sure it is the number one priority and that CSG is a distant second.

"We are about getting consensus that we are not compromising our water, no matter how long it takes to get it."

Mr Robertson was in Grafton yesterday with Country Labor candidate Peter Ellem talking with local business people about the issue.

"Country Labor has taken a stand and called on the O'Farrell Government to immediately suspend all CSG exploration licences before irreparable damage is caused to ground water and aquifers in the Northern Rivers," Mr Ellem said.

"Until the science is in, we should suspend all current CSG exploration licences, cease issuing extraction licences and refuse any applications to expand existing operations."

The Clarence River was the area's most precious natural resource, and putting it at risk put the whole of the local economy at risk, he said.

The Labor party's new stance against CSG was announced last week, and was endorsed by Mr Ellem. CSG mining was an issue across all sectors of the Clarence community, including farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and the general public.

"We have heard very little on CSG from the Nationals candidate. I'm asking Mr Gulaptis to set politics aside and put our rivers and agricultural land first," Mr Ellem said.

"This by-election is an opportunity to send a message to the Nationals about coal seam gas on behalf of all country people."

National's candidate Chris Gulaptis responded, saying The Nationals did not have "flip flop" mining policies like Mr Robertson.

"The NSW Nationals went to the last election with a strategic land use policy that ensured the primacy of aquifers, surface water and agricultural lands. It was the policy then and it is the policy now," he said.

"Coming after both the Nationals and the Greens, Labor are late to the table on this issue and with no hope of implementing their current position in government, their words are meaningless."

Mr Robertson didn't expect the result of this weekend's by-election to be too different from the March state election where the Nationals received more than 70 per cent of the vote.

"It has only been seven months since the last election, but what I do say is we have a great candidate, well connected to the local community. And he has already been out running campaigns on local issues, like a 24-hour police station in Yamba."

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