'Credibility up in smoke'

Protesters follow state minister Brad Hazzard and MP Thomas George into Lismore City Hall to question them on CSG.
Protesters follow state minister Brad Hazzard and MP Thomas George into Lismore City Hall to question them on CSG. Marc Stapelberg

THREE Northern Rivers State Nationals MPs have ignored an invitation from the Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin to take a united stand against coal seam gas in the region.

APN Newsdesk has seen the letter Ms Saffin wrote to Don Page (Ballina), Thomas George (Lismore) and Chris Gulaptis (Clarence) on January 25, in which she called on each of them to lobby for a statewide ban on CSG until more was known about the industry.

"I am happy to meet with you all to discuss a joint approach to CSG on behalf of the people of Page. There is too much at risk to do otherwise," Ms Saffin wrote.

But as of yesterday, not one of the Nationals MPs had contacted Ms Saffin's office to confirm even receiving the letter.

None of the Nationals MPs was available for comment yesterday.

Ms Saffin said she remained willing to work with them to "protect their communities", but conceded her patience was being tested by their reluctance to co-operate.

"Absolutely, that's what I'm seeking. But the gloves are off now because they haven't done anything. They just keep sitting.

"They've got to try. The community has to see them trying. I go out there and work hard," she said.

In the letter Ms Saffin wrote, her initial optimism about gas exploration in Page was replaced by fear when she began doing her own research.

"I had to find out myself that it wasn't great at all and this is why I started looking very carefully at what exploration drilling and gas wells do to our precious aquifers and groundwater," she wrote.

Ms Saffin again called for an extension of Commonwealth powers to approve or refuse CSG developments based on the impact on water resources.

At the moment the Federal Environment Minister's powers are only triggered on endangered species, not water.

Ms Saffin was also highly critical of her Nationals opponent in Page, Kevin Hogan.

Mr Hogan said this week he was opposed to CSG and, if elected on September 14, would cross the floor on the issue if necessary.

He would be lobbying his colleagues to change their views on CSG after he toured gas fields in Queensland.

Ms Saffin said he could have saved himself the trip.

"He said he went to Queensland. I didn't have to leave my own veranda to know it was toxic and no good," she said yesterday.

She said the Coalition's credibility had "gone up in smoke" on the issue.


Health chief

MS SAFFIN also wrote to Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Chris Crawford asking if he had been consulted about health risks and issues associated with CSG during the approval process.

She is yet to receive a response from Mr Crawford.

Topics:  chris gulaptis coal seam gas csg don page janelle saffin thomas george

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