I make a brief contribution to debate on the Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment (Grant of Coal and Petroleum Titles) Bill 2015 and cognate bills.
These bills contain significant changes to the law relating to the mining and petroleum industries in New South Wales and their administration.
I am deeply concerned about the impact of this legislation on the environment across our State and I would like to ensure that protections in the legislation governing our mining industry are not watered down as a result of this rewriting of the legislation. As mentioned by previous speakers in this morning's debate, the Labor Opposition reserves the right to move amendments to these bills in the other place, especially on the issue of coal seam gas.
Coal seam gas mining is a destructive and environmentally damaging practice that can impact severely on our pristine farmland and waterways in New South Wales. We are not yet aware of the full extent of this impact. We do not know what effect the extraction of coal seam gas will have on our environment.
Using hydraulic fracturing or fracking to extract natural gas from coal seams beneath the surface has the potential to permanently damage our water tables and, by extension, the farmland that relies heavily on this water.
The New South Wales Government engaged the Chief Scientist and Engineer to investigate and make recommendations on implementing best practice standards for coal seam gas in New South Wales, using experience from around the world.
I acknowledge that, through this legislation, the Government is moving towards implementing some of the chief scientist's recommendations. However, I believe we simply should not be risking our prime agriculture and eco-tourism destinations by allowing harmful coal seam gas mining and fracking on the best farmland in our great State.
That is why Labor proposed at the recent election there should be a legislated, permanent ban on coal seam gas mining across the seven local government areas of the Northern Rivers and a moratorium on all coal seam gas activity across the State until the chief scientist's recommendations were implemented in full.
Labor supports these bills, but will further scrutinise their impact after consultation with stakeholders. As I said, we reserve the right to move further amendments in the Legislative Council.
Residents across my electorate of Summer Hill are extremely concerned about the impact of mining on our pristine environment and are overwhelmingly opposed to the expansion of the coal seam gas industry across the State. I am glad that the Government announced the buyback of petroleum exploration licence [PEL] 445 from Dart Energy. But there is still more to do on the Northern Rivers—Metgasco's licences PEL 13 and PEL 16, which cover Rock Valley and the Bentley drilling sites, are yet to be bought back. This is not good enough; there is still more to do.
I acknowledge that The Nationals members have finally come to their senses and have realised that communities across their electorates do not want coal seam gas mining.
I am pleased that they were dragged to the position of Government buybacks. I am very proud of Labor's policy on coal seam gas, which is clear. I want to see the Government working towards implementing the chief scientist's recommendations and ensuring our pristine environment and agricultural land are forever protected.