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2011 NSW Parliament
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A matter of trust: – letter to Gloucester Advocate

Coal Seam Gas


Gloucester | Pilliga | Camden | Northern Rivers | Wollongong | Bentley
Woop Woop March | Aussies Against Fracking

GENERAL PURPOSE STANDING
COMMITTEE No. 5 27 MONDAY 31 OCTOBER 2011

THOMAS DAVEY, Chairperson, Tourism Advancing Gloucester, affirmed and examined:

CHAIR: Thank you for appearing before the Committee. Would you like to make an opening statement?

Mr DAVEY: Yes. Firstly, welcome to Manning Valley. We hope you enjoy your stay. I represent tourism in Gloucester. We are only a very small group in Gloucester, about 140 tourism businesses that employ about 9 per cent of the local workforce. The industry in Gloucester generates about $28 million worth of tourism dollars per year, which is not bad going for a small shire of about 5,000 people.

I note that in our accompanying shires in Manning, greater Taree generates $140 million and Great Lakes is another $140 million, so when you put those three together we are quite a sizeable chunk of the tourism business on the mid North Coast. The good thing about this particular industry is that most of it is retained in the community, so the $28 million earned in Gloucester stays in Gloucester with the small businesses that I represent.

I have been in tourism for about 20 years promoting destinations. Gloucester is a destination. It has World Heritage-listed Barrington Tops and the Gloucester-Stroud Valley is also National Trust listed. That is one good thing about being a destination, particularly in the twenty-first century.

Twenty-first century tourism is all about experiences and Gloucester is at the top of that because it can provide clean green experiences — adventure tourism, wellbeing tourism and agri-tourism. I am here for a very small town in a very beautiful location that is under threat from coal seam gas mining.

Just after this Committee inquiry was announced some advertising started appearing in the paper. I will hold up this advertisement so the Committee can see it. This is Brooke, who is from Singleton, and it is pretty clear what she is demanding: she is demanding coal seam gas.

This ad appeared four weeks running in our local paper and then they changed the heads and we had some new faces. I will read an open letter from a Gloucester resident in response to this ad:

Hello Brooke,
It was with dismay that I saw your pretty smiling face in the "We want CSG" advertisement in our local Gloucester paper. I saw that you are demanding coal seam gas because of the economic benefits you think it will bring to your town.

I agree with you that rural towns need more that one key industry. In our past, Gloucester has relied on timber, then dairy, now beef cattle, mining and tourism.
...
Let me count the reasons why we don't want coal seam gas in Gloucester:
Because its ugliness will destroy our tourism industry;
Because of the risks from their poison ponds to our rivers and aquifers;
Because of the risks to our productive farmlands and treasured wildlife;
Because the 110 gas wells planned for our valley will destroy its National Trust-listed beauty;
Because it's not a sustainable industry (once it's gone, so too will be the gas mining companies);
And because the gas mining companies use advertising with pretty faces like yours, to divide our community based on the possible benefits to just a few.

We don't need another short-lived industry in Gloucester such as coal seam gas to lead us down yet another path of dependency.
So yes, by all means please keep coal seam gas in Singleton for the benefit of your local community. But here in Gloucester, we'd like something better.

Brad Bowden
Church St., Gloucester

Coal seam gas equals ugliness, equals risks, it is not sustainable and it is divisive. In conclusion I want you to remember only three words today—mining kills tourism. I hope you enjoy your stay.

The Hon. GREG DONNELLY: Is there no scope whatever for any middle ground in this debate? Is it a zero sum game as plainly as you present it?

Mr DAVEY: We have a mining town already with one coalmine and another coalmine is proposed that wants to come right up to the first fence in the backyard backing the town. Now we have 110 coal seam gas wells about to start plus another 220 in the plan. On top of that there is gold exploration going on at the moment.

As I left home this morning there was a plane buzzing in my valley, going up and down, up and down. The town really does feel under siege when there are planes buzzing during the day and you know it is an exploration plane. We already have a mine which was pitched to the town as being a boutique coalmine and it would be gone in 20 years time. Those 20 years are up and they have asked for an extension and for 24-hour operating.

There is middle ground for something you already have but when it appears to be swallowing you up every which way you turn the feeling in the town is that the miners are on the march and they include coal seam gas.

When you feel like they are marching up the valley and they are going to walk all over town that is where the stress comes from for the town.

The Hon. GREG DONNELLY: I feel like I am acting as the devil's advocate in putting this question to you: What if there were farmers in this area who were prepared to support coal seam gas exploration and mining on their property? What do you say about that proposition?

Mr DAVEY: As I mentioned earlier, the whole proposition is divisive. I know there are people on my tourism group who have suffered friendship breakdowns.

The husband of a woman with a well-established business in Gloucester that was a State finalist in the bed and breakfast category in the Hunter region took a job in the coal seam business with AGL and she said she has copped abuse in the street from people who are longterm friends.

It has the ability to tear people apart on the basis of perceived self-interest. They receive special deals from the mining companies and short-term gain for long-term pain in the community.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: In another role I am a councillor and we have made a significant investment in Orange City Council in western New South Wales in something called "Brand Orange", so I understand a little about branding and tourism branding. You have made a significant contribution in your submission about the impacts of coal seam gas on tourism branding. It is not just a name; it is a significant socio-economic investment. What is your branding now and what do you think the threat is in the future to that branding?

Mr DAVEY: Those of you who watch television or read a newspaper will know what a brand is. You will know what Coca-Cola and McDonald's stand for. Brands represent a space in people's minds. I am very lucky because I work with a group that had identified our brand values and created a mission statement before Iwrote this submission. Those seven points in my submission are the brand values for Gloucester.

Our brand values identified by our group are scenic drives, pretty rivers and productive farming valleys, village atmosphere and old world charm, friendly people, country hospitality, gourmet cafes and wineries, boutique shopping on a relaxed main street, extensive accommodation choices for any budget, and World Heritage listed nature for adventure and wellbeing.

A lot of those values can apply to any area in New South Wales and I encourage those areas to come together to create their own values because this is what we judge ourselves on in our group.

We judge all activities that we do. We have those values on the wall and this is what we stand for, so it is very easy and very clear to judge everything based on those values.

Anything that goes against those values is clearly a threat to the tourism businesses in Gloucester. As you can see from my submission where we talked about the water and noise and all the things that could be detrimental to the brand, it means they could be detrimental to the businesses of Gloucester and downstream to the Manning River Valley and the Great Lakes as well. It is not just the $28 million that is at risk; it is the $320 million at risk.

CHAIR: You mentioned there are 2,600 people employed in the industry. Is that in the whole valley?

Mr DAVEY: No, only 240 people are employed by the tourism industry, which is 9 per cent of the workforce.

CHAIR: Is it $28 million from Gloucester-Barrington alone?

Mr DAVEY: Just for the Gloucester region, yes.

The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: I will not challenge you about brands but one of the things that struck me in the conversations today is that people are talking about wells and not about pipes. Maybe it is because we are largely talking about the exploration phase at the moment and not production. Are you aware ofwhere the pipes are proposed to go to transport the gas and what effect that would have?

Mr DAVEY: I am not an expert on where they are laying those. It is actually hard to track down the information from AGL as to where the pipeline will go. It looks as if the pipe will operate along Bucketts Way from Gloucester and down behind Stroud.

The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: How would you view the brand of this community in relation to the pipes?

Mr DAVEY: A pipeline is a scar on the face of Gloucester's beauty.
CHAIR: What about if it is underground?

Mr DAVEY: I think the flaming smoking wells are the poke in the eye in Gloucester's beauty so if we do not get it one way we will be poked in the eye somewhere else by something else.

CHAIR: Have you actually seen a gas well?

Mr DAVEY: Again, it is hard to find a picture of a gas well because there is not one on the AGL web site. The photographs I have seen have been on ABC television, on a web site and wherever I could get an angle on what it looks like. Sometimes you just see a row of trees. That is the image AGL wants you to look at. The ad on television for Santos about how good they are in western New South Wales does not show one well; it shows cows. They do not mine cows. It is hard to paint a picture. I like to talk about pictures and I find it very difficult to get a handle on words that apply.

CHAIR: Just so everyone knows, I was not trying to trap Mr Davey or be a smart aleck. Unless you get taken to see one of these things they are a bit hard to find. That does not mean when you have 400 or 2,000 of them they are not a nuisance. It is just that they are not intrusive. I think the point Mr Primrose was trying to make was that the wells on the farms are not the end of it. You then have to have a pipeline to transport the gas and in some locations you have to have a plant about as big as this room with some big gas turbine engines pumping that gas. It is not just the little wells you are talking about.

Mr DAVEY: When I first came to Gloucester four years ago I drove from Ingham along Bucketts Way in the middle of drought. We actually drove down from Queensland and the only parts of New South Wales that were green were Byron Bay and around the Gloucester-Manning River valley. We got to the Mograni Lookout and there is a spectacular view right down the valley.

That will be a perfect viewpoint of the 330 coal seam gas mines that will be put down in that valley. You will get to see it without needing an aeroplane.

The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: What about agriculture? It is often given a bad name in terms of its viability and whether it is an ongoing concern because of the reduction of agriculture and the numbers of people in that sector. In my district there has been a reinvigoration, a renaissance in boutique horticulture, clean green food and slow food. Is that happening in Gloucester and is coal seam gas potentially a threat to that
industry?

Mr DAVEY: Coal seam gas threatens everything. That is the easiest way to put it. Agriculture is turning a corner in Gloucester. Everybody knows about the Gloucester Project, which has just been awarded over $250,000 by the State Government to do more research work and to grow alternative land uses for growing food. It is very strong on the food security agenda.

What price do you put on the health of a vegetable that has travelled only a couple of kilometres versus one that has come all the way from the United States or India or Israel? What price do you put on that from a health point of view?

I cannot stress enough that locally grown food is going to be the way of the future. Gloucester is trying to head that way and we have the funding to do so. So anything that is detrimental to that path is just going to fly in the face of food security in the future.

The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: I take you to the land offsets for coal seam mining. I am not aware of any proposal ever by any coal seam gas mining company to approach this looking for land offsets. I can be corrected, but the main reason is the footprint is quite small. Yes, it is a bit larger than when they first do their test drilling, but then it comes back to, as somebody said previously, roughly the size of a shipping container.

So, unless you can tell us otherwise, I do not believe there has ever been a request to go down that pathway of an offset. Are you aware of that?

Mr DAVEY: Not in particular. Mining companies and the gas mining companies have very deep pockets and when the fire is started by a group such as the one behind me, they will start offering money and they will buy out people who are against them. They will buy out farmers and they will buy out greenies. We are surrounded by stunning landscape and what we do not want is somebody to say: We will protect that mountain top because we are going to obliterate the valley. We do not want that to happen.

CHAIR: Can you give the Committee a bit of an idea about what is the forward plan for tourism in Gloucester and Barrington? What do you want to do?

Mr DAVEY: We have just completed a strategic plan for tourism in Gloucester and fortunately there are the three things I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation: Tourism that is adventure-related; tourism that is wellness and wellbeing related; and agritourism, that is, farm stays, farm experiences and farm gate trails.
It is all about food and it is about beauty.

CHAIR: Hunting and fishing too?

Mr DAVEY: Great fishing. You are more than welcome to come to Barrington Tops and the area for fishing at any time.

CHAIR: In your forward plans, what sort of growth do you expect from your current $28 million?

Mr DAVEY: The last time it was measured was 2007, so I believe $20 million, but it is way beyond that now and there has been exponential growth in adventure tourism over that time in Gloucester. Blue sky, I cannot put a figure on it. I know it is beyond $28 million but I thought we were talking about the published numbers. So clearly, the drive would be the $35 to $40 million. As I said, $140 million for the Manning Valley and $140 million for the Great Lakes—why can't we do that?

CHAIR: Does your group have any promotional material you can leave with the Committee or have you already done so?

Mr DAVEY: I have a "Wellbeing in Gloucester" brochure. It is a brand new brochure that has just been released. Brad Bowden from Tobruk is sitting over here because he is the massage therapist in town. He is part of this new group of wellbeing practitioners in town we are trying to promote. We are already on the ground running trying to promote our town in twenty-first century tourism.

CHAIR: Can you table that and a copy of the letter?

Mr DAVEY: Yes. I have a copy of that, and do you want a copy of the advertisement?

CHAIR: That will probably help. We can copy the advertisement and return that to you if you wish.

Leave granted.
Documents tabled.

(The witness withdrew.).

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