overview of possible impacts from coal seam gas
development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales
Project by Elfian Schieren, 2012
6 Potential for coal seam gas development in Northern
Rivers, New South Wales
6.1 Northern Rivers region
The Northern Rivers falls within the Far North Coast Region of
New South Wales that extends from the Queensland border south along the coast to
Evans Head and west to Woodenbong and Tabulam (NSW Department of Planning, 2005).
The population is over 450,000 and has been growing at 2% per
year one of the highest rates outside capital cities in Australia (NRCMA, 2007).
The Far North Coast is recognised for significant
environmental values, attributed to wide variations in climate, altitude,
landforms and geology that support a diverse array of flora and fauna, including
many threatened and iconic species such as the koala (NSW Government, 2010).
Northern Rivers is the most biologically diverse region in New
South Wales and third most in Australia (NSW Department of Planning, 2006).
Water underlies all aspects of economic and social development in the region and
is fundamental to the regionís image.
Dedication to water conservation is evident in all councilís
active development of Integrated Water Cycle Management Plans to reduce demand
on surface and groundwater and improve recycling and reuse opportunities (NSW Department of Planning, 2006).
Protecting and enhancing the environment and conserving
natural resources are considered paramount to the regions sustainable future (NSW Department of Planning, 2006).
Favourable climate, protected environmental values and
recreational opportunities have led to the region being widely recognised as an
international and domestic tourist destination (Destination NSW, 2012).
Tourism has an important economic and social role bringing
over $2 billion to the economy per annum (NRCMA, 2007).
Estimates are that the tourism industry employs over 7000
people in the region (NSW Department of Planning, 2006) and there is much
opportunity for expansion of the industry, provided the environmental and social
values it hinges on are preserved (Buultjens et al., 1996).
Lismore has a strong primary industry, construction and
manufacturing sector employing 8.4% of the population (NSW Department of
Planning, 2006). The latest statistics show that fresh food crops are worth $984
million with macadamias as the largest single producer at $35 million
(Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).
Accommodation and food industries are expected to grow with
continuation of tourism growth in the area.
The greatest employment opportunities are in retail,
hospitality, tourism, education, health, agriculture, forestry and fishing (NSW Department of Planning, 2006).
Southern Cross University is an important contributor to the
local economy spending over $50 million per annum and providing a major source
of income to local businesses and significant employment opportunities (Buultjens et al., 1996).
Agriculture is an important industry for the North Coast
having been one of the first industries in the region since 1870 (Henderson,
2002) and currently bringing over $1 billion per annum to the region (NRCMA, 2007).
Agriculture is the regionís third largest employer and
exporter and fourth highest contributor to the gross regional production (NSW Government, 2010).
The spread of urban and industrial development is an
increasing pressure on the economic and social value of agriculture in the
region and protection of agricultural land on the NSW North Coast is a long term
government initiative for the region (Australian Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources, 2005).
Due to a relatively wet climate and land disturbance, soil
loss from erosion is another pressure on the agricultural industry with an
estimated soil loss of 60 tonnes per/ha/year on bare ground, 30 tonnes
per/ha/year in macadamia farms and over 10 tonnes per/ha/year in pasture (Woodlots and Wetlands, 2008).
6.2 Using trade-offs and opportunity costs in evaluating CSG development
The definition of trade off refers to the balancing of
objectives that are not simultaneously achievable or simply the giving up of one
thing in return for another or that the investment into one option causes a loss in another (Asafu-adjaye, 2005).
This concept needs to be applied in economic, social and environmental evaluation of CSG development.
If agricultural production is reduced forever because of 20
years of CSG development than this would be considered a trade off.
Another concept is opportunity cost which refers to the value
of a resource in its next best alternative use or the benefits that may have
been obtained from a foregone alternative investment (Asafu-adjaye, 2005).
This concept is particularly relevant in situations where
resources are scarce or finite and investment into one form of use will mean
that the resource is no longer available for another investment (Asafu-adjaye, 2005).
The downgrading of higher quality water to lower quality
represents an opportunity cost as the range of potential uses is reduced by the loss of quality.
6.3 Prospects for development in Northern Rivers region
It was indicated by representatives of the landholders,
townspeople and Northern Rivers management groups that education and secure
local employment were considered among the most important aspects of economic development (NSW Government, 2010).
With projected rises in the population there will be a need to
strengthen local economic activity and associated employment.
Continued diversification of the economic base is considered
essential to sustain the regionís economic growth (Buultjens et al., 1996).
The Northern Rivers Regional Industry and Economic Plan (2005)
identified tourism, horticulture, health, aquaculture, residential development
and construction, forestry, meat and dairy, and transport as key industry sectors with growth opportunities.
A distinct challenge for the region is the need to create 32
500 jobs by 2031 to support the growing population (NSW Department of Planning, 2005).
The vision for the future of Northern Rivers involves three main objectives
1. To have physically healthy people and natural environments
and maintain a high level of mutual trust, support and cooperation within and between communities.
2. Creating a sustainable future by recognising the links
between economy, environment and quality of life Ė now and in the future.
Ecologically, economically and socially sustainable development, are all equally
important and the Strategy strives for a balance between these goals.
3. Diverse communities are considered a valuable asset and
need to continue to be an integral part of the regionís growth. (NSW Department of Planning, 2005).
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