RESIDENTIAL areas in the Northern Rivers will be safeguarded from future coal seam gas activity, Premier Barry O'Farrell told NSW Parliament on Tuesday, but he "can't turn back the clock" on projects that have already been approved.
Answering a question from Lismore MP Thomas George about the new rules the government would enforce on the CSG industry, Mr O'Farrell said "commonsense" had been injected into the revised policy.
He hit out at the state opposition for criticising his government's attitudes towards CSG and the environment when it was only strengthening the measures introduced by the former Labor Government.
He went on to say residents in country towns like Casino and Grafton, where the former government allowed petroleum licences to be granted, could be confident the new rules on CSG exploration would apply to their regions.
He admitted, however, that he could "not turn back the clock" on projects which had already received approval.
Asked which projects Mr O'Farrell was referring to, a spokesman distanced the reference from the Northern Rivers and suggested the Premier had been "talking generally" about NSW as a whole.
Mr O'Farrell, who has been under immense political and public pressure, to put a halt to CSG activity, described the new rules as "the toughest in the country".
Among other changes, a 2km exclusion zone for CSG activity will be imposed around residential areas and "critical industry clusters".
While horse studs could come under the ban, farms in general did not make the list.
Richmond MP Justine Elliot said the revised policy "completely ignored" the concerns the community who had made it clear it wants a "CSG free North Coast....no ifs, no buts, no conditions".
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