Australia’s only rare-earth company, Lynas, has told The Echo that last week’s article on the Greens Party, entitled ‘One rainy night in Mullum,’ contained ‘factual inaccuracies and misleading statements.’
Rare-earth minerals are the raw materials used for the manufacture of renewable energy items such as wind turbines, hybrid car batteries, solar panels, circuit boards and magnets.
And while rare-earth min- erals are also used to manufacture parts for cruise missiles and iPhones, their extraction is known to be associated with highly toxic materials such as uranium and thorium.
Lynas’s executive vice- president of corporate affairs, Alan Jury, said that contrary to the statement that Lynas was forced to shift its operations to Malaysia owing to opposition from ‘all political parties’, Lynas possessed regulatory approvals to build its refining operations in Australia and received support from the major parties.
He said, ‘Lynas decided to locate its refining process in a Malaysian industrial park owing to access to the abundant supply of electricity, water, relevant technical expertise and chemical inputs for the refining process that were not readily or competitively available in the Western Australian desert.’
Mr Jury also said that senator Ludlam’s statement that Lynas’s rare earths are ‘radio-active sludge shipped in plastic bags’ was misleading.
‘The radioactivity in Lynas’s rare earths is so low that it is prevented, by transport regulations, from applying a radio-active placard to the load.
‘If every product that was radioactive required similar treatment, then bananas, stone benchtops and garden fertilisers would require similar signage.’
Regarding public opposition in Malaysia, Mr Jury said the company had been ‘active within the community,’ and cited various meetings with local community groups, NGOs and academics.
He maintains that the Malaysian plant poses no health risks and that natu- rally occurring radiation in the waste will be reduced to almost zero and made into roadfill, fertiliser and the like.
‘Waste that doesn’t get used ends up in temporary storage ponds next to the plant,’ he said. ‘These have leak detec- tors and are lined and raised. It’s not a simple “pond”.’
Anti-Lynas seats won in Malaysia
Yet ABC reported last year that candidates ‘running on an anti-Lynas platform won a raft of seats around the plant, in the May general election’.
Bloomberg listed Lynas as the worst performer this year among its index of 11 rare- earths producers and explorers and it lost more than $107 mil- lion last financial year. Lynas’s processing plant in Malaysia started producing late last year, according to Mr Jury.
The possible contamination of waterways from gas mining at the proposed Bentley site, just west of Lismore, has sparked a motion by Greens Cr Duncan Dey for this Thursday’s council meeting.
Cr Dey, who is also a councillor of water authority Rous Water, warns that Metgasco’s attempts to extract tight sands gas from prime agricultural lands could have ‘catastrophic impacts.’
He says in the upcoming council agenda for April 10 that the risks have ‘not been adequately investigated’.
Additionally, Rous Water, which supplies water to Lismore, Ballina, Richmond Valley and Byron LGAs, has called on the state government to prevent gas exploration in areas it is planning to explore for under- ground water sources. It comes as the state government recently announced a six-month freeze on all new CSG explorations.
Cr Dey wrote, ‘My view is that the risk to water quality is substantial while the necessity for unconventional gas to be discovered or, if found, extracted in this particular locality is negligible.
‘There is gas elsewhere.'
‘Rous and hence Byron Shire Council and their de- pendent water supply community rely on the Lismore source. If it were to be re- moved from Rous’s supply system, our future water strategy would be undermined in that a replacement source would be required almost immediately. While groundwater is proposed as ‘the new source’, it requires several years of investigation prior to use.
But in reply to Cr Dey’s question on possible contamination, Rous staff said, ‘It is unlikely that surface water runoff will have the potential to impact on local tributaries’, but ‘a key question to be ad- dressed concerns the extent to which the upstream migration of contaminants occurs during... intermediate flow ranges, when potential expo- sure could occur.’
‘This analysis requires consideration of the variability of tidal flows that would also introduce variability to this situation.’
Meanwhile Council’s Infrastructure Services director, Phil Holloway, says in the re- port that council staff contact- ed Richard Green, team lead- er of the state government’s Groundwater North, over the issue. ‘He has verbally advised that they have no concerns with the Bentley project.
‘It’s a conventional gas bore in that they are looking for dry gas, not fracking for coal seam gas. He also advised that groundwater flows very slowly and said that it may not be even possible for ground- water to travel from Bentley to Byron.
‘Without further investigation he couldn’t comment any further on the issue.’
But in his comments Mr Holloway provided the federal government’s Atlas of Ground- water Dependent Ecosystems which, ‘suggest the ground- water between Bentley and Byron Shire could be linked.’
State govt refused to fund water test
Regardless, for those living next door, the possibility of toxic spills and runoff are a major concern. Boudicca Cerese from Gasfield Free Northern Rivers claims the water testing that was done last year was insufficient to make any reasonable comparison.
‘What is required is proper baseline data’, she said, ‘not just this one-off testing but actually, over a period of time, through all different seasons.’
Richmond Valley Council, which covers Bentley, commissioned Lismore-based Richmond Water Laboratories to carry out the 2013 testing, with Metgasco paying for the test after the state govern- ment refused to fund it.
No baseline testing
It was done within a two- kilometre radius of the well’s location, and looked at the water quality in two creeks, two bores and two dams adjacent to the property where the company plans to drill for tight sands gas. The tests will be repeated two months after the drilling is complete and again 12 months later.
Cr Dey is asking for Council to write to Macquarie Street- based NSW coalition MPs regarding the dangers of the activity, while Cr Basil Cameron is calling on councillors to support a letter-writing push to include northern rivers agricultural industries as a Critical Industry Cluster (CIC) status.
Currently there are only two CICs in NSW: the horse and wine industries of the Hunter Valley. That legislation protects just those two indus- tries from the state’s rapid expansion of gas mining.
A voluntary contribution from Belongil landowners affected by beach erosion is the latest plan by Byron Council to help pay for the remaining amount needed for a rock wall that would cover the last stretch of private and public beachfront in the area.
The topic of ‘interim beach access stabilisation works’ again divided the Greens voting bloc at Council’s meeting on Thursday, with Cr Rose Wanchap siding with Crs Diane Woods, Sol Ibrahim, Alan Hunter and Chris Cubis to support funding the rock wall from an environmental levy.
But if the Belongil landowners come to the party, the estimated $155,000 from the levy may not be needed.
Cr Ibrahim told The Echo that after meeting all the landowners recently, they were open to negotiations and are looking at ways to maintain beach frontage (as rock walls are known to erode beach frontage).
While conceding it isn’t cheap, Cr Ibrahim said, ‘there are other beachfront areas all over the world with rock walls that have been engineered to also have beach frontage’.
He also challenged the argument that all Belongil landowners are required to have removable houses in case of a severe storm, as per a 1980s agreement with Council. ‘Some are not subject to the 1980s Council agreement because they bought before that agreement,’ he said.
Regardless, a foreshadowed motion will see Council wait for legal advice, which is due in a few weeks, and would be considered prior to tenders being called (Crs Cubis, Woods and Hunter voted against).
It’s advice that mayor Simon Richardson says was recommended by a panel of experts in coastal management, who recently met with Council.
A staff recommendation that funds from an environmental levy be used to fund the project dominated much of the debate, with Crs Wanchap, Woods and Ibrahim claiming that that the geo-bags that are currently in place – and that have been largely washed away – constituted environmental pollution and a threat to sea life.
Cr Woods said that in all her years in Council, she had ‘never heard such hypocrisy’.
‘We are told these bags are falling apart and that the environment is being affected. [It comes down to that] some of us want rocks there, and some of us don’t. Every time we get a report that comes before us, it gets delayed… whatever tactics that can be used are put in place to stop it from happening.’
Meanwhile, Cr Ibrahim argued that the works are interim, ‘as rocks can be moved and relocated’.
In reply, Cr Richardson said the issue is ‘not about eco-worrying’.
‘If we truly care about the environment, we wouldn’t have walls there so the turtles and birds might have a beach that they could use.’
While admitting that the walls will happen, Cr Richardson said it was important ‘how it will happen and how to minimise any possible litigation’.
Of the recent meeting with coastal planning experts, Cr Richardson said one of the planners, Angus Gordon, told them either ‘to protect or withdraw’.
‘They all said legal clarity is vital,’ he said.
Cr Basil Cameron argued that without a coastal zone management plan (CZMP), which is in accordance with the Coastal Protection Act 1979, Council could be ‘open to failure’.
‘We need indemnity that the landowners won’t sue us if the works fail in years to come,’ he said. Council’s director of infrastructure services, Phil Holloway, told councillors that staff will meet with landowners next week. Executive manager of organisational support, Shannon McKelvey, added that any agreement with landowners ‘would only be with landowners, not the land’.
Chemical-free weed control has come to Byron and soon you may be seeing this chap steaming roadside weeds, carparks, playgrounds and estates around the Shire.
It’s all thanks to an Aussie patent, which gives just the right heat to a spray nozzle to kill weeds. And remarkably the weeds are mostly eradicated after a second application.
Local property maintenance business operator Paul Sommers, from Garden Warriors, is the north coast licensee for Australian company WeedTechnics, and has partnered with Byron Shire Council to trial it on open spaces.
The new venture is called Steam Weeders, and his rounds will include Mullum’s new Tallowood Estate and various parks and playgrounds.
Sommers said he was compelled to look for alternatives to herbicide use after public concern about their widespread use.
While the proliferation of herbicide use is a concern that mainstream media has largely ignored, it was the subject of a 2012 University of Leipzig study which found 100 per cent contamination of Monsanto’s glysophate in all urine samples tested. Additionally glysophate exposure in rats resulted in decreased testosterone levels, according to a 2011 paper published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
‘It makes chemical use – especially around public places – almost redundant,’ says Sommers.
‘There’s no risk of litigation due to toxic spray drift, and it can be used in all weather conditions.
‘It also gives native plants a chance to grow after the weeds have been eradicated. It’s perfect for rehabilitating weed-infested waterways and organic farms as well.’
Council’s parks and gardens superintendent, Andy Erskine, is supportive of initial trials, saying applications last month at the Suffolk Park sports field carpark appeared to work well.
‘From initial observations, certain weed types such as flat and broadleaf, fit best under the applicator hood and are immediately burnt back.’
The robust invention all sits on a trailer – a diesel engine heats up a water boiler to 120ºC; that is attached to a specially designed ‘Steamwand’. The WeedTechnics website claims that, ‘for hydro-thermal weeding to be commercially viable, temperatures need to be greater than 98°C, and must have rapid transfer into the plant cells.’
Sommers enthuses, ‘Hybrid and fully electric vehicles incorporating the invention are being developed and some were on display at a recent trade show.’
And it’s also not the first time Byron has had the WeedTechnics technology available: in 2011 a local steam weeding business launched; however, the owner relocated to WA soon after.
But it is a first for Byron Council – the trial supports an ambitious resolution back in late November 2013 to be chemical free within five years.
Byron has now joined other councils in trialling chemical-free weed control, including Victorian councils of Maroondah, Yarra and Greater Dandenong.
Fremantle (WA) and Leichhardt (NSW) have such programs in place already.
To be included on the Register of Chemical Sensitive Residents and Organic Growers, visit www.byron.nsw.gov.au/register-of-chemical-sensitive-residents-and-organic-growers.
For FAQ on steam weeding, visit www.weedtechnics.com and to get your greens steamed, call Paul on 0431 331 810.
There’s a new approach by activists battling against the planned natural gas industry expansion in the region: a number of Metgasco’s largest shareholders have been sent a letter advising them about the size and effectiveness of the social movement that opposes its operations.
It comes as protesters gear up for a fight against proposed drilling operations at Bentley, near Lismore.
Michael Qualmann, on behalf of Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, sent the letters last week saying that Metgasco had been understating the scale of public opposition and that the regional community was well organised and had undertaken training in non-violent direct action.
Mr Qualmann says Byron Bay resident John Vaughan, whose super fund is listed in Metgasco’s 2013 annual return as its eighth largest shareholder, contacted Mr Qualmann after the letter was sent and told him that he may lose his home in litigation.
‘I don’t know why anyone would consider this litigious’, Mr Qualmann told The Echo, ‘I’m actually doing the shareholders a service by providing them with information about risks to their investment that they may not be aware of.’ He also referred to the 87 per cent who voted against gasfield developments in the Lismore poll and that over 119 communities had declared themselves gasfield free by margins over 90 per cent and were prepared to fight to prevent gasfield establishment.
Both Mr Vaughan and CEO of Metgasco, Peter Henderson, declined to comment to The Echo.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown is, ‘the most serious nuclear crisis since Chernobyl,’ says New Scientist magazine.
While many news agencies and governments would agree, why is this topic being largely ignored – or even silenced by mainstream media?
Ever since Japan’s most powerful earthquake/tsunami on record crippled the reactor, containing the daily output of 400 tonnes of contaminated groundwater is proving unmanageable.
And when we need transparency more than ever, the very tight-lipped and proud nation of Japan looks set to introduce a new state secrecy bill, according to the UK’s Independent last November.
Critics say, ‘the law dramatically expands state power, giving every government agency and ministry the discretion to label restricted information “state secrets”.’
It triggered protests from Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Journalists, the Federation of Japanese Newspapers Unions, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
But that may be the least of Japan’s – and everyone’s – troubles. Scientist David Suzuki says Fukushima is the ‘most terrifying situation imaginable’ and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and the Japanese government are ‘lying through their teeth.’
‘Three out of four plants were destroyed,’ he told a symposium on water ecology held at the University of Alberta in Canada last October.
‘And the fourth is so badly damaged that an earthquake of a seven [magnitude] or above and it will go.’ He says the probability of that happening in the next two years is over 95 per cent.
‘What they have in there is 1,300 rods of spent fuel that have to be kept in water all the time, and they have no way of getting it out. They are pouring water in which is leaking out. And now there’s this cockamamie scheme of freezing the soil. They don’t know what to do. What is needed is international experts to go in there with complete freedom but that isn’t happening.
‘I have seen a paper which says that, if in fact, the fourth plant goes under in an earthquake and those rods are exposed, it’s bye-bye Japan and everybody on the west coast of North America should evacuate. If that isn’t terrifying,’ he said, ‘I don’t know what is.’
Aust govt report
But what do our government and bureaucrats say?
Back in October 2012, The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), released Assessment of the impact on Australia from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident by Julia Carpenter and Rick Tinker.
While unprecedented, and the eventual outcomes are unknown, the report says, ‘very low levels of radioactive material were detected in Darwin,’ the following month after the meltdown.
‘At these levels there was no impact on health of people in Darwin. It is expected to take at least five years for ocean circulations to transport radioactive material to Australian waters. By this time the radioactivity will be diluted to such a degree that it will be difficult to detect.’
But circulation of ocean waters is not the only way radioactive water can travel.
Ballast water is water that ships take on board when sailing without cargo. It helps to stabilise an empty ship from tipping over. Again, the report downplays possible harm, ‘given the unlikely presence of the public at ballast water exchange points, there will be no risk to public health. The effects of dilution would also mean that there will be no impact to the biodiversity of marine life.’
As for imported Japanese foodstuffs, the report leans on the Japanese government to monitor safety levels.
Japan has imposed food restrictions and their ‘testing results can be found on the Japanese Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare website.’
Thankfully Australia also monitors Japanese food imports. ‘In addition, food imported from specific regions in Japan are tested by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) for radioactive caesium when it arrives in Australia.’
Meanwhile, there is also evidence emerging that radiation fallout affected between 50 and 150 sailors tasked with the cleanup operation.
News organisation Aljazeera, and others such as www.navytimes.com, recently reported that fifty-one crew members from the USS Ronald Reagan are suing TEPCO, alleging that the utility mishandled the crisis and did not adequately warn the crew of the risks.
TEPCO sued by US sailors
‘Crew members, many of whom are in their 20s, have been diagnosed with conditions including thyroid cancer, testicular cancer and leukaemia,’ says Aljazeera.
Charles Bonner, attorney for the sailors, says, ‘Deployed ships desalinate their own water, so crew members were unknowingly drinking, cooking with, and bathing in contaminated water due to the ship’s close proximity to the disaster site.’
‘The USS Reagan was informed of the contamination after a month of living approximately 10 miles offshore from the affected region.’
The latest containment plan by Japan, says New Scientist, is to build a 1.4-kilometre wall and sink pipes carrying freezing fluids into the ground, ‘gradually freezing it to form a barrier of permafrost 30 metres deep, down to the bedrock’.
Where to now?
It will force the water to drain into the sea instead, something which is backed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The expensive and time-consuming technique has been used in the US for years, it is claimed.
But mycologist Paul Stamets may have a better answer: fungi that gobble radiation to grow. He told www.permaculture.co.uk that mulching and woodchipping everything around the reactor is the first step, ‘to a minimum depth of 12–24 inches’. Then native deciduous and conifer trees need to be planted, ‘along with hyper-accumulating mycorrhizal mushrooms’.
The radioactive mushrooms would need to be removed continuously, burned, and the ash safely stored.
The time-frame for rehabilitation could be decades, he added.
Plans for the development of the 108-hectare West Byron Project are now with NSW Planning & Infrastructure at http://bit.ly/westbyronplans and public submissions can be made until January 31, 2014.
The proposal aims to rezone the West Byron site, located opposite the industrial estate, and allow for low/medium density residential, industrial and a neighbourhood centre, as well as environmental zones.
Estimates have put the number of houses upwards of 800. There are also plans to establish planning controls including building heights, minimum lot sizes, flood planning requirements, coastal protection and management of acid sulphate soils.
While the aim to add more housing to west of Byron is contentious, the landowners argue, ‘We believe that adding to the supply of residential land and housing will bring prices down and give more people the opportunity to live in Byron Bay rather than commute from out of town.’
So far only 15 public submissions have been received on the proposal – five of them objecting, seven in support and three offering comments only. One objector remarked, ‘I am concerned of the impact on the Belongil Estuary and do not think developer “guarantees” of low/nil impact should be regarded as acceptable safeguards.’
Byron Shire Council in November 2011 called on NSW Planning & Infrastructure to not proceed with rezoning the land until transport issues could be adequately addressed. Council’s submission also advised that ‘the residential density of 17 dwellings per hectare is well in excess of other subdivisions in the Shire’ and called for no flood-liable lands to be filled.
The Echo asked a spokesperson for the West Byron landowners when they expected to have the project up and running, if it is approved. ‘We’ve been in the approvals process for the West Byron Project since late 2008 and although it’s difficult to put an exact timeframe on any construction, it probably wouldn’t be much less than three to five years,’ the spokesperson said. The business/commercial hub is proposed to be about one hectare in size, ‘located at the centre of the site for ease of walking access from within the release area.’ She added that the business centre would occupy 13ha at the western end of the site, ‘conceptually in a style similar to the Arts and Industry Estate.’
Dual carriageway recommended to address traffic
In regards to traffic issues, the West Byron Project website recommends a dual carriageway on Ewingsdale Road and bike paths that would lead into town from the estate.
A detailed traffic study completed two years ago forms part of the material on public exhibition, says the spokesperson. ‘RMS agreed on the scope of that study before it was commenced and accepted the findings after it was completed and Council is in receipt of the computer simulation for traffic on Ewingsdale Road.’
So who are the developers?
They are long-term residents of the Byron area, according to the spokesperson, ‘…absolutely committed to delivering a quality outcome for the community’ over the next 20 years.
The landowners are Tony Smith, Byron Shire local who has owned his holding for 22 years, Alan Heathcote of Suffolk Park, Peter Croke, long-time Byron Bay resident and business owner, Crighton Properties (under receivership and management), David O’Connor, long-term Byron resident who has owned his holding for 25 years, Garry McDonald, long-term Byron Shire resident and business owner, Warren Simmons, long-term Byron Shire resident and business owner, and Kevin Rogers, long-term investor in Byron.
For more information, visit the landowners’ site at www.westbyronproject.com.au.
‘Democracy is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing’ – H L Mencken
It’s Thursday October 31, 9am, and a gasfield free flash mob has packed Council’s chamber to support Council’s gasfield free shire submission to the state government.
A triumphant mood permeates the room while speakers call on councillors to support gasfield free inclusions into a letter to the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure.
Taking a stand against fossil fuel corporations was looking like a unanimous message from the crowd – but then a lone objector stood before the crowds and pooped on everyone’s feel-good bubble.
Belongil resident John Vaughan asked why Council was spending a ‘large amount of money’ on the motion when there were no coal seams in the Shire.
‘There are none in Tweed Shire and none in Ballina Shire,’ he said. ‘While I admire these people for their passion, it is not relevant to this shire.’
Mr Vaughan went on to say he spoke to Lock The Gate’s Ian Gaillard at the recent Metgasco AGM in Sydney.
‘I asked him why is Lock The Gate worried [about CSG] in the Tweed, Byron and Ballina shires. He dodged the question and when I said there’s no coal seams there, he said, “I know.” He said it was a “social movement”.’
There was a short pause while that sentiment sunk in, but then, well yes, that seems an entirely logical explanation. It appeared obvious to everyone in the room except one that this is largely a symbolic and social movement which is calling for a shift towards renewable energy.
Regardless, Mr Vaughan pushed on to repeat the same point again and again that, ‘enormous and vast resources’ were being spent on ‘something that wasn’t there.’
He suggested instead that Council find out whether there were coal seams in the area and report that to the community.
When asked by Cr Cameron if he represented anyone, he admitted he was a Metgasco shareholder. Laughter and heckles ensued. And when pushed on whether he supported CSG exclusion zones around towns, he eventually said ‘no’.
Mayor Simon Richardson later responded to Mr Vaughan’s claims that the submission would cost ‘enormous amounts of money.’ Cr Richardson said it probably would take staff ‘two hours at most to cut and paste,’ the submission, and that his presumption was completely unfounded.
Additionally a gasfield-free activist publicly thanked Mr Vaughn for his keen interest in saving Council money but then pointed out his ongoing court case with Council over rock works he instigated at his beachfront property.
When the issue was debated later in the day, Crs Alan Hunter, Di Woods and Chris Cubis spoke against supporting a gasfield free Shire.
‘Conceptually it’s not a problem,’ said Cr Hunter. ‘Food production and tourism should be protected, [but] we shouldn’t follow our emotions,’ he said. ‘A policy of saying “no” is limiting. I am concerned of cutting our supply and we need to be globally competitive.’ Cr Woods agreed. ‘I have signed the anti-fracking petitions… but if we discount gas altogether, what will we use? If you follow the chain to China where they make solar panels, it’s being made from gas. After coal, the only option is nuclear. I would rather have gas.’
Cr Chris Cubis said that while he agreed with some parts of the motion, he was concerned about other elements. ‘Friends of mine with farms outside the region are asking why we are spending money on this,’ he said.
‘There seems to be a lot of rhetoric being spread about.’
He added he would prefer resources spent elsewhere.
But as the mover of the motion, Cr cameron had the last word.
He said that petroleum exploration licences, held by Dart and the Aboriginal Land Council, still cover Byron Shire.
‘While the licences are in place, they allow a company to come in and explore. Council makes land use submissions on a regular basis and this is no different,’ he said. Crs Hunter, Woods and Cubis voted against the motion.
A decision on Bangalow’s historic weir was delayed after councillors all voted in favour of Cr Sol Ibrahim’s motion to wait for funding application results in December and the approval of a development application (DA), which is due in two weeks.
Caravan park grab
Fifth generation Brunswick heads resident Sean O’Meara questioned Council in public access about the state government’s latest attempts ‘to fleece the Brunswick Heads community of some of its best public foreshore land’. He told councillors he was hoping to ‘inspire you to keep your heads up and not be fooled, bluffed or tricked into dodgy compromises by the newly named NSW Crown Reserve Holiday Parks Trust, or as most of us remember them, Mr Jim Bolger and North Coast Holiday Parks.’
To see all of Thursday’s fun, the minutes are available at www.byron.nsw.gov.au.
The planning document that defines land usage, developments and zonings has been finalised by Byron Shire Council staff and is on its way to Sydney for state government approval.
It’s called the Local Environment Plan (LEP); councillors voted last Thursday to sign off on the 114-page policy, which is in accordance with state government requirements.
Council’s media spokesperson said it also corresponds with the shire-wide Development Control Plan (DCP), which is still being prepared.
But there are some omissions to the LEP – coastal, E2 and E3 environmental zonings were left out as the state has yet to finalise those parameters.
And it’s a policy that could see some movement in the real estate market: Council staff have included provisions enabling community title (CT) subdivision of approved multiple occupancy developments, which is again subject to state government approval.
Additionally Council will seek a future amendment to the LEP to allow two (detached) houses on rural land. While the minimum lot size is yet to be determined, it will be reported to Council prior to being sent to the NSW department of planning.
Mayor Simon Richardson said at Thursday’s Council meeting that he and general manager Ken Gainger recently met with NSW planning MP Brad Hazzard in Sydney and told him that funding advice for ground truthing, or mapping, had still not been received by Council from the planning department.
‘He was shocked to hear this,’ Cr Richardson said, and he expected Mr Hazzard to reply soon.
State coalition minister and Byron Bay resident, Don Page, is unsupportive of a 12,000-strong petition by residents calling for a north coast moratorium on coal seam gas
The widely anticipated petition was tabled in parliament last week after it reached 10,000 signatures.
Mr Page, who is the minister for the north coast, instead used parliament time to launch attacks on the region’s two federal Labor MPs and members of the public opposed to mining expansion.
It follows widespread opposition to CSG by communities throughout the north coast, including many declarations by towns and local councils against the industry taking a foothold. Protests against CSG continued last week with residents from Lismore and Richmond Valley rallying outside Metgasco’s offices and drill sites.
While defending his government’s unprecedented ‘tough’ restrictions on the industry, he accused ‘disingenuous individuals’ of conducting anti-coal seam gas surveys in residential locations in north coast towns, despite their knowing that his government, ‘already banned CSG activity in all NSW residential areas and in a two-kilometre buffer zone surrounding every residential area.’
But Richmond MP Justine Elliot hit back saying, ‘The Nationals betrayed the people of the north coast in supporting CSG mining’. She also challenged the CSG companies, saying if there are no coal seam reserves in her electorate then they should return their exploration licences.
And while Mr Page didn’t name Justine Elliott (Richmond MP) and Janelle Saffin (former Page MP), he told parliament, ‘it was a shameless electioneering tactic, initiated by two Labor federal members on the northern rivers in a desperate attempt to boost their chances in the recent federal elections.’
‘They stood in main streets gathering signatures and spreading alarm about coal seam gas – scaremongering to try to save their seats – in the full knowledge that coal seam gas companies had walked away from the north coast months before because our rules are so tough.
When asked by The Echo to clarify that statement given Metgasco are recommencing drilling near Casino, he said, ‘Metgasco have sealed all their CSG exploration wells and only have an interest in conventional natural gas.’
And with regard to the petition’s request to exempt the north coast from mining, Mr Page told parliament, ‘It is not good public policy to discriminate either for or against any particular geographic area of the state, no matter how close to paradise that part of the world might be.’
‘The government’s role is not to advocate on behalf of mining companies, but to have the regulatory framework that protects our land and water resources and our environment – something that Labor never did.’
During the debate, Lismore MP Thomas George also went on the attack, accusing former Page MP Janelle Saffin of allowing mining expansion while in office. ‘She was a member of the Legislative Council when the licences were issued for the northern rivers. They took the money and ran.’
But surprisingly Mr George then stated his support for fossil fuel expansion. ‘If we do not produce the extra energy needed in this state, especially in the northern rivers, major businesses such as the Northern Co-operative Meat Company will pack up and move over the border. They cannot survive without cheaper energy.’
Page challenged on renewables
Meanwhile Greens NSW MP John Kaye challenged MP Page’s sustainable credentials and vision for the Ballina electorate.
‘National Party MP Don Page says on his webpage that his vision for the electorate is to create a sustainable future for the whole community,’ Dr Kaye said. ‘[Mr Page] says he understands that this is about creating jobs by protecting the environment. The challenge for Mr Page is to show he is serious about the environment and local jobs by supporting our push for 100 per cent renewable NSW. Starting the transition now means that regional NSW can get ahead of the global competition and become leaders in clean energy solutions.’
When asked if he supports Dr Kaye’s 100 per cent renewable push, Mr Page told The Echo, ‘I stand by my long-standing commitment to renewable energy. Indeed I was a keynote speaker at a conference in Bangalow a few years ago, specifically on the importance of renewable energy to our future. Clearly it will take some time to transition to a 100 per cent renewables situation given both the Commonwealth and state objectives are to get to 20 per cent by 2020. I would like to see the Ballina electorate better those targets, which is entirely possible given our interest in renewables, the employment opportunities associated with such a focus, and not to mention the abundance of sunshine! I think our area can be a leader in renewables.’
Transmission line abandoned
The challenge comes as a proposed high-voltage transmission line from Tenterfield to Lismore was cancelled last week. The abandonment of the $250 million Bonshaw line, once dubbed ‘essential’ by electricity network provider TransGrid, is a victory for grassroots campaigning and follows on the heels of the cancellation of a similar line on the mid-north coast in April.
Dr Kaye will make his 100 per cent renewable presentation at the at the Ballina RSL Club on November 6 from 5.30pm and also at the Mullum Civic Centre on Thursday November 7 from 6pm.