NORTHERN Rivers Tourism is the latest organisation to call for a moratorium on all coal seam gas mining in NSW, expressing concerns about the possible negative impacts it could have on tourism in the region.
Northern Rivers Tourism CEO Russell Mills said it was "appropriate for the region's peak tourism body" to seek certainty from state and federal governments that the $1.3 billion tourism industry was not compromised.
"The Northern Rivers takes a lead from the natural landscapes and rural character in which we live. It is these assets and character which inform our reputation amongst visitors and which generate billions of dollars of tourism income for the region and the state," he said.
Mr Mills said the Northern Rivers tourism industry employed 8000 people full-time. He is seeking to collaborate with Regional Development Australia-Northern Rivers (RDA-NR) on "independent research on the economic impacts of coal seam gas mining on the Northern Rivers, including its impact on existing industries like tourism".
This was promoted by an economic impact report released this week by Metgasco that estimates there would be a $1.4 billion "direct expenditure" benefit to the Northern Rivers over 20 years from the company's mining operations.
The report, prepared by Lawrence Consulting, estimates Metgasco would create 7000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs during the construction phase and 2500 FTE jobs during the operating phase.
"The effects of these newly created local jobs and the significant expenditure will flow through to all parts of the Northern Rivers community. The new jobs created will mean that these people will buy more food, fuel, furniture and electronic goods from local businesses. The whole community will benefit from the growth of our operations," Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson said.
Lismore City Councillor Simon Clough has commented that people shouldn't be "fooled by promises of rivers of gold".
"There is a terrible price to pay for coal seam and other unconventional gas mining and it will turn our extraordinary natural environment into an industrial zone. And remember Metgasco is only one of three major gas explorers seeking to exploit this region," he said.
"There is not one mention of social or environmental costs in the consultant's report. Environment gets mentioned twice in relation to 'business environment'." Needless to say the economic impact report is totally dependent on the assumptions that were provided to the consultant."
Lock the Gate spokeswoman Boudicca Cerese warned that boom periods for mining companies could lead to skilled workers being flown in from other regions, pushing up costs and having little economic benefit for local communities."What we as a region need to be asking, and governments need to be properly analysing, is what impacts an expansion in the CSG industry will have on our vital farming and tourism industries and what will be the economic costs of potential contamination of our air and water, and health impacts on residents, from the wholesale industrialisation of rural areas that Metgasco is proposing," Ms Cerese said.
"How many jobs will be lost because of food producing land going out of production, water supplies being depleted and contaminated, and our image as a beautiful natural place to visit being ruined?"