At the Ordinary Council Meeting on Tuesday 16 May 2017, Council were presented with the draft submission from Narrabri Shire Council on the Environmental Impact Statement which is currently on public exhibition for the Narrabri Gas Project. Council staff have prepared its submission which is completed on behalf of the community it represents and will be submitted to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment for determination.
This project has attracted significant interest within the local community and amongst environmental groups opposed to the Coal Seam Gas industry from across Australia. The community have identified a series of concerns around the project including the potential contamination of ground water for stock and domestic use, potential health impacts, ongoing environmental issues, disposal of extracted water and the issues around land access onto private property.
Positive commentary has also been considered with some in the community expressing acceptance of the safety measures introduced by the industry and the significant boost this project could have to our local economy with the creation of new jobs and opportunity to attract new industry.
The submission prepared by Narrabri Shire Council addresses the issues that will directly impact the community whilst petitioning the approval body to apply a vigorous independent expert review of the more complex specialist scientific matters which are beyond the expertise of Council staff and more suited to specialist regulators.
“The Environmental Impact Statement is a very complex document. To enable staff to review the document effectively they have targeted areas that deal specifically with major issues of concern to sections of the community,” explained Director Development and Economic Growth, Tony Meppem.
“With the more complex issues concerning ground water and the health impacts of CSG, Council recognises it does not have the technical capability to address these issues. In this situation, Council is reliant on the relevant consent authorities to provide the technical guidance and conduct a rigorous review prior to approval.
“Within Council’s submission we ask the State Government to apply the precautionary principle in the assessment and potential development consent conditions for this proposal. As well as this we also request the Planning Assessment Commission conduct peer reviews on the more critical sections of the Environmental Impact Statement.”
In 2013, Council adopted an Extractive Industries Policy to provide some guidance to Council staff and the community when dealing with the growing extractive industries. This policy attempts to draw balance between the beneficial impacts on the local and state economy and potential impacts on air and water quality.
“From this policy, Council demands a ‘Nil’ effect position in regard to the quality of surface water, domestic, stock and irrigation aquifers used by our community,” explained Mr Meppem.
“Council takes very seriously its role in ensuring that the planning process is thorough and all economic and environmental factors are appropriately considered before State Significant Developments are determined. Should those developments be determined favourably the community should have faith in the monitoring programs in place to protect the local environment.”
Following the public forum presentations, Council expressed that they were very pleased with the submission. The final submission will see the addition of some of the specific points raised during the public forum, which the Director Development and Economic Growth deems appropriate, to complement the existing submission. The final version of Council’s submission will be available on Council’s website following the meeting for the public to easily access.
The public exhibition period for the Santos Environmental Impact Statement ends on 22 May 2017. Submissions can be made by the public through the approval bodies NSW Department of Planning and Environment website.