Non-violent, but non-negotiable

Coal seam gas fields should never be built on land where people live or farm, or in environmentally precious areas.

Laws that protect landowners and the environment have been compromised. The right to mine minerals should not sanction damage to the property, environment and lifestyle of people who live on and own the surface.

It is clear from the Queensland experience that the coal seam gas industry cannot co-exist with healthy rural communities and landscapes. The CSG mining problem cannot be resolved by any bureaucratic process that seeks to "balance" the interests of miners and the community, or by any scientific committee.

The CSG issue in the Northern Rivers can only be resolved by the NSW Government adopting a policy that prohibits gas fields in this area.

The government faces a dilemma. It must chose either the extreme, radical plan of the petroleum companies to turn the Northern Rivers into gas fields, or the conservative, responsible option, supported by the majority of citizens, of protecting this area's thriving rural communities and World Heritage natural environments.

CSG industrialisation of the Northern Rivers would result in landscapes marred by a spider's web of wells, pipes, roads, camps, fences and toxic ponds. Thousands of wells would for the next 20 years bring vast quantities of salty contaminated water to the surface, release toxic fumes and smoke into the atmosphere, damage aquifer and surface water systems and inflict 24-hour-a-day noise and light pollution on rural communities.

Citizens would lose their right to the "quiet enjoyment" of their land and the right to control access to their properties. They would suffer a CSG associated loss in land value that is in effect a cruel, compulsory transfer of wealth from farming families to mining companies.

Such destruction of property, lifestyle and prospects would inevitably result in widespread distress, mental health problems, social disruption and political turmoil.

By contrast, the conservative policy of keeping the Northern Rivers as a productive rural region of high biodiversity and conservation value would bring inestimable benefits that far outweigh any financial gain for the NSW Government from CSG mining once the five-year exemption on royalties expires.

The waterways of this region are all sustained by aquifer fed springs. For most of humankind, our water would be priceless, but now our water systems are put at risk by CSG mining. Our farmers can grow good, healthy food for this country and the rest of the world forever. The Northern Rivers' clean water, good soil, and healthy rural communities are going to be the most precious commodities in the world, bar none, in coming decades.

A rapidly growing, powerful, community-wide opposition is determined to block CSG activities in the Northern Rivers. These citizens will not back away from their responsibility to protect the country they love. Their opposition is non-violent but non-negotiable. For the sake of their families, their country and their future they will stop CSG in the Northern Rivers.

Dr Wayne Somerville


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