| Pilliga |
Camden | Northern Rivers
| Wollongong |
Woop Woop March |
Aussies Against Fracking
GENERAL PURPOSE STANDING
COMMITTEE No. 5 27 MONDAY 31 OCTOBER 2011
PETER EPOV, Chairman, Manning
KERRY ANDERSON, Secretary, Manning Alliance, and
LLOYD PARSLOW, Treasurer, Manning Alliance, sworn and examined:
CHAIR: Would any or all of you like to make an opening statement?
Mr EPOV: I will make a statement on behalf of the group. First I will introduce
the other members of
the group. Kerry is a single parent who is balancing operating a farm,
completing a university degree and raising
three teenage children. Lloyd and his wife, Janice, are self-funded retirees who
have made the tree change and
moved to the Manning Valley from the Blue Mountains. Lloyd is a decorated
Vietnam veteran who voluntarily
served in the Australian regular army. We collectively are the authors of the
submission before you.
I will continue the theme of our submissions. This community does not want, nor
do we support, coal
seam gas mining in the Manning Valley. As in our submission, we stipulate that
the Manning Valley should be
recognised as a region of unique State significance and that it should be
permanently locked away from coal
seam gas mining.
Today, here in the Manning Valley, is Blue Day. Blue Day is
what we call a silent people's
protest aimed at peacefully expressing this community's opposition to coal seam
gas. Throughout the valley and
for a further six weeks merchants will be displaying our blue posters. People
throughout the community are
hanging blue ribbons on their front doors, gates and cars and today they are all
wearing blue. Blue represents the
clean, pristine waters that we have in our valley which we are determined to
protect from coal seam gas
contamination. If you cast your eyes over the audience, you will see people
wearing blue. I am sure that the
Committee would have noticed that all day today everybody has been wearing blue.
Such is the resolve of this
Again, if you cast your eyes over the audience, you will see a broad
cross-section of the community,
people from all sectors of the community. We are not radicals, we are not fringe
elements, we are people who
are deeply concerned about the implications and the consequences of coal seam
gas, as are many Australians
throughout the community.
These people want me to express to this inquiry and to
the Government that we do
not want to compromise the quality of our water, the health and safety of this
community, nor our fragile and
precious local economy, to the serious and significant consequences of coal seam
gas. We are not happy with,
nor do we trust, accept or believe the present Government's policy-on-the-run
approach to coal seam gas mining.
Further, we question the morality of the Government fuelling a gas gold rush and
at the same time
arguing that if we do not allow this industry sufficient latitude, then it will
go elsewhere. We do not like the fact
that when it comes to coal seam gas the New South Wales Government is the policy
maker, the tax collector and
the primary beneficiary of coal seam gas. Nor do we like the fact that so many
former politicians, staffers and
government employees are now working for this industry. It is a little like
The coal seam gas
dilemma has been painted through the media and by industry and politicians as an
age-old argument between
farmers and miners over land use rights and, as such, it has been minimised and
trivialised. But the issue is
much larger and more significant.
This is not just about land use rights; it is
an argument about major
fundamental change to the structure of the Australian way of life, our way of
What the community is saying is that we do not want coal seam gas wells popping
all over the place. Further, we would strongly argue that neither the current
State Government, nor Mr O'Farrell
or Mr Bromhead, have an explicit mandate to make such a structural change to our
way of life. The community
and the people will not stand for it, nor will they accept this.
This is partly
the reason why there are so many
groups and alliances that are appearing throughout the State. We do not want to
be surrounded by gas wells. We
do not trust nor do we believe in the rhetoric. There is insufficient science to
support coal seam gas mining in
this State and the Government should not underestimate the concern and resolve
of this community. This issue
really will not go away—it is not like the Solar Rebate Scheme.
The fact is, the
community is only now starting
to awaken to the consequences of coal seam gas. Once the community is fully
aware, this will become a
significant conflict and it will haunt and damage the Government.
We understand that the Government is eager to fill its coffers from coal seam
gas mining and that coal
seam gas is an easy and expedient solution for the Government. But the community
does not want to pay this
price. We do not want to exchange our way of life. We do not want to take on the
risks of coal seam gas.
Expediency only leads us to greater and far more complex problems down the
track. The new buzz word of
"adaptive management" from the coal seam gas industry—meaning once we cause a
problem, then we will sit
down and try to work out a solution—just does not have any weight.
We do not like the fact that the National Party—which claims to be looking after
the interests and the
welfare of the bush and the rural community—appears to be very closely aligned
and in bed with the mining
Further, we do not like, nor do we accept the revival of the ghost of
Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen constantly
telling us, "Don't you worry about that; don't you worry about that",
particularly in a situation where, almost
daily, new information is emerging regarding the seriousness and the significant
consequences from coal seam
The Government is facing a major credibility issue on this subject. The
Coalition was elected and
campaigned on the previous Government's failures—not on a platform of structural
change to our community.
Coal seam gas represents a structural change to our community. The manner in
which the State Government
appears to be allowing the industry to cherrypick locations means that the whole
State is now exposed.
It is the
Government's management of this issue that is causing all the upheaval
throughout the State and this will
ultimately lead to significant civil unrest such as that which has now been
commenced on the Liverpool Plains.
Neither this community nor the entire State wants to see the Queensland coal
seam gas pandemic here. Is it not
our responsibility, as a society and as the human race, to be looking forward
longer than the next 50 years?
Should we not be looking 200 and 500 years forward? After all, it took China 400
years to build the Great Wall.
Or are we prepared to consign our grandchildren to abductive management where we
create all the problems and
they have to find the solutions? Thank you.
CHAIR: Would either Mr Parslow or Ms Anderson like to make a statement? I will
now pass to
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY: Thank you for coming along and providing some additional
testimony to your detailed submission. I open by framing it this way: The
impression I got from the submission
you gave—a very heartfelt and strong submission—was that the position is, "No,
no, a thousand times no", to
coal seam gas exploration and development. On the other hand, on page 10 of your
submission, you raise what
are a number of issues that really, on my reading of it, should be addressed if
we in New South Wales are to
have a serious look at this issue of coal seam gas exploration and development.
So I am just trying to discern
what the position is. Is the position a complete no, never, or is it that there
are a number of very serious matters
in play here that need to be looked at and we should be turning our minds to
looking at these and, to coin a
phrase, get to the bottom of it and satisfy ourselves before we proceed with the
development of the industry? So
I am just trying to get the position that you hold?
Mr EPOV: The position that we hold is that we oppose coal seam gas mining in its
present manner of
introduction. We understand that there is some economic benefit to the State. We
understand that it is expedient
for the State to look at the enormous amount of income from royalties and things
We would argue that
there are other industries that need to be encouraged, primary industries, which
could ultimately cover the
income and return what is projected from coal seam gas mining. We cannot come to
you and say no to
everything; we have to be reasonable in our approach.
We have said to you that
we oppose it but if the
Government allows it to happen, then we are asking you to take into
consideration all of the elements that we
put in our submission. After all, we are only a voice of a small community. Does
that answer your question?
The Hon. GREG DONNELLY: Yes. Following on from what you have said, page 10 of
submission, which is very detailed, outlines a number of issues which need to be
confronted and got to the
bottom of before the industry proceeds in this State. That is your submission?
Mr EPOV: Yes.
The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE: A question I asked earlier, that is, how do you
respond—and I can
guess what the answer may be—to the suggestion that the coal seam gas industry
will bring jobs and prosperity
to this area?
Mr EPOV: One of the things that is not being discussed is a cost benefits
analysis to the community
and this is one of the things that needs to be considered in this whole process.
What does it really mean to this
community or to any community? It is our belief that it will not improve the
economic status of the community.
We believe it will have a negative impact on our economy and on our way of life
and that there are enormous
social elements to be considered. Some of the other speakers today have spoken
to you about property values
What was not touched on—and I presume someone will ultimately touch
on that—is the human
element, the impact on the people who have to suffer in the situation where
their property values are slashed or
when their mortgages are called on because they no longer have sufficient
collateral on their property.
heard of instances where people have gone to borrow money and the bank is saying
no because their property is
in a coal seam gas area.
Think of the consequences if that falls right through
Gloucester and all the banks sit
down and look at their exposure and they say: We are not covered sufficiently,
let us go and call in all our
mortgages or let us ask for additional security. How many people on mortgages
People have had
breakdowns, people have had heart attacks. These are consequences that are
indirect but clearly impact on the
entire community and on other government services.
The Hon. JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Mr Epov, you have, in a compelling way, put the case
coal seam gas. One of the fundamentals to that case is that you are concerned
about the economic impact of coal
seam gas on existing industries. Could you expand on that? What are the threats
you see to industry? What are
those industries? How do you see coal seam gas impacting detrimentally on the
existing and potential economy
of this district?
Mr EPOV: This region has been impacted by globalisation—where we had substantial
employing hundreds of people, they have disappeared. As you all flew in today
you would have seen how green
our valley is. This was a significant beef producing area.
This was a
significant dairy industry area but 70 per
cent of our dairies have been wiped out through dairy deregulation. We now have
a very delicately balanced
economy. That economy is based on some food production and tourism.
people are employed in
tourism in this region. Tourism means several hundred million dollars of income
to this community. Quite
frankly, no-one will come here to go on the gas pipeline trail.
Above us four billion are people living in Asia. Of those four billion people,
there are close to one
billion people with a high disposable income. As we fuel their economies with
our energy and our minerals, we
are also fuelling their living standards. As we fuel their living standards,
they will have greater demand for
better quality produce: food.
We have all been to Chinese restaurants and seen
the fish swimming around in the
tanks. We know that the Chinese like to pick this fish or that fish—they like to
see quality produce. I have spent
almost 20 years doing business in China. I have made over 100 visits to China. I
can see the changes that have
occurred in their living standards. With those changes in living standards will
come greater demands for quality
food, for naturally grown, clean food—pasture grown food. All of our lobsters go
to China at the moment. The
Chinese are quite prepared to pay, and they have the money to do so. If they can
pay for our lobsters, they can
pay for premium food.
In terms of contributing to our economy, we need to focus on what we already
have and grow it,
develop it and expand it. We should not put it at risk. We should not put it
into harm's way or jeopardy. Being
three hours away from Sydney we have a lot of visitors to this region. We see
tourism as being negatively
impacted. If there were some sort of incident resulting from coal seam gas or
contaminated water, it would have
a severe negative impact on food from this area.
From looking around the table I
gather that most of the
Committee members are of the same vintage as me. You probably all remember the
Sydney oyster scares in the
1970s. Industries died. My wife's family business, which was probably the single
largest oyster distribution business in this State, died as a result of oyster
poisoning scares. These
implications must be thought through.
Think back to the mad cow disease. We did not have it in Australia, but think
back to how it impacted and
affected other countries and their produce. We only need one incident. That is
my answer to your question.
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: You were talking about the cost benefit to the community.
will probably go ahead if it can be designed so that there is no impact on our
groundwater, surface water,
estuaries, et cetera, no impact on our agricultural land and no impact on the
social fabric of our community
you must remember that that is what this inquiry is about — but if those things
cannot be given then probably the
industry will not go ahead. Assuming we meet all those ifs, and we want to give
a better financial contribution
to the community, so the cost benefit pendulum swings back in the community's
favour, have you got any
suggestions as to how that should happen? Should it be through compensation to
communities at large? If so,
how should that compensation be applied?
Mr EPOV: To answer the earlier part of your question, it is like me picking all
the numbers in
Powerball. At the moment it clearly appears that there are so many
considerations that have not been made with
regards to coal seam gas. Those ifs are very big ifs. I am not disputing what
you are saying. I think that
ultimately there have to be areas identified that may be properly tested for
coal seam gas. I am a rational person
and I try to be reasonable in my approach, but ultimately those areas have to be
incredibly well selected and
vetted. Those areas cannot have an impact on the community. Many of the families
of the people who live here
have been here for generations. They have worked, toiled and developed this
land. It is not right, fair or decent
for someone to steamroll their property and create havoc and mayhem. It is not
The Hon. RICK COLLESS: I think you have misunderstood my question. My question
ways in which we could get better recompense for the community?
Mr EPOV: In terms of better recompense for the community we need to clearly
identify those regions
that are suitable and those that are unsuitable. That has got to be developed by
consideration of not only
strategic land use but also a range of other factors. I was going to say at the
end of our evidence that we intend
to give the Committee a further submission on elements that we have not covered
and which we would like to
expand on. The fact is that individuals need to be compensated and they need to
be compensated properly within
the twenty-first century.
More importantly, regions are critical. Regions should
not be considered through lines
on a map. We have got to look at the geography. We have got to look at the
geology. We have got to look at the
structure of the earth. We have got to consider all of these factors before we
determine the areas that are
acceptable and those which are not acceptable. My argument today is that this
particular valley is not acceptable
for coal seam gas mining.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: I heard you talk about access and you compared it with
Queensland has quite different land access protocols compared with New South
Wales. We need to draw a little
bit of comfort from the fact that, as far as I am aware, there has been no
forced access by any coal seam gas
company in New South Wales. That is my understanding. Are you saying there
should be even greater bars, if
you like, for access onto properties?
Mr EPOV: Absolutely. We do not have coal seam gas in this valley at the moment
so I feel a little
unqualified to speak directly, but access is a serious issue from what I heard
in the evidence that the Gloucester
people were giving earlier. I cannot give you direct evidence. I can only give
you information about what I have
The situation with access is that people can come to your property and
they can ask you to drill. They do
not necessarily identify themselves. They do not tell you what your rights are.
They get people to sign contracts,
which are confidential and they cannot disclose to their neighbours. The whole
process is divisive. It is intended
to divide and conquer. It is not fair and it is not reasonable.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD: When the Committee prepares its final report you would
one of the key elements to be included in it should be that land access
agreements should be transparent,
equitable and fair, correctly priced and give equal power?
Mr EPOV: Landholders need to have rights, and those rights should cover their
right to say no.
CHAIR: I thank you all for your submission and for appearing here today. I ask
you to ensure that you
get your supplementary submission to the Committee within 21 days.
(The witnesses withdrew)
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Camden | Northern Rivers
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