Metgasco, the coal seam gas (CSG) miner has been making much of its possible contribution to local jobs recently. But to be fair I think we need to look at our existing economy and jobs and ask ourselves, is CSG worth the risk?
Existing industries that rely on access to clean water, healthy soil, clean air and our beautiful rural landscapes are:
Tourism - directly employing nearly 8000* people - contributing $1.3 billion** each year (*International and National Visitor Surveys ** the 2009 Regional Industry & Economic Plan).
Sugar care farming (certified sustainable status) contributes over 1000 jobs and $230 million to our overall economy each year.
Other prime agricultural industries (the following data is from Northern Rivers Food):
The region's food industry made up an estimated $715.4 million of the region's gross regional product from 2005-06 to 2009-10.
Norco Co-op Ltd, is a dairy processing and agricultural supplies company, and it employs 600 people.
In total, in 2009-10 agriculture, forestry and fishing contributed $362.2 million to the Northern Rivers economy and employed an estimated 7,865 jobs, or nearly 9% of the region's population.
So in simple economic terms CSG could threaten at least some of nearly 16,000 existing jobs and $2.3 billion worth of production in our region.
But the threat of CSG is far more than economic or even environmental. Experience in other mining areas shows there is a huge social cost. CSG mining often causes landholder conflict between those who wish to have drilling on their land and those that don't. Social costs are also often experienced between imported workers and the existing community. One aspect of this is the huge rise in the cost of rental housing with imported workers prepared to pay thousands of dollars a week for accommodation. The question remains: is CSG worth the risk? Nearly 87% of Lismore voters don't think so and I agree.
Cr Simon Clough