SHOOTERS, Fishers and Farmers MP Roy Butler has extended an olive branch to his neighbouring state MPs, who are against gas extraction in their electorates, to work together to kill off the threat in the state's North West.
The offer for co-operation comes after the NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro released the government's Future of Gas statement on Wednesday, which killed off 77 per cent of expired petroleum exploration licences (PELs) across the state.
However, several zombie PELs covering Nationals MPs Kevin Anderson (Tamworth) and David Layzell's (Upper Hunter) electorates, as well as parts of Mr Butler's Barwon seat, remain intact to help support Santos' Narrabri Gas Project, which was approved last September.
"Certainly, parts of his [Kevin Anderson's] electorate will be included in what the Future of Gas statement suggests are areas suitable for gas development, so whether he wants it or not, it looks like he's got it," Mr Butler told The Land.
"The invite is there for Kevin or Adam [Marshall] or anyone who is concerned about this going into their electorate, to work with me to try and ensure it doesn't happen.
"There's things I can say the government can't say on the floor of Parliament, so I'm happy to work with anyone, as I've demonstrated over the past two years in the upper and lower houses. If I can help influence a vote to benefit regional NSW I'll do it.
"I'm happy to work with anyone, I don't care what political party they are from because I am happy to work with anyone to protect groundwater and ensure prime farming land like the Liverpool Plains is left alone to get on with the business of agriculture."
Read more from our slay the zombie PELs campaign:
- Some zombie PELs slayed as Future of Gas statement released
- Butler slams Nats' zombie PELs view as 'highly hypocritical'
- Gas donation questions raised by Nats zombie PEL inaction
- North West shires renew push to extinguish zombie PELs
- Independent MP's bill would slay zombie PELs
- Lack of 'viability' prompts hardened opponent's fresh calls
- Stuck in zombie PEL limbo for 14 years
- Anderson '100 per cent' stands by call to extinguish zombie PELs
Recently elected Upper Hunter MP David Layzell said the remaining PELs, if renewed, would come with a fixed term, which would prevent them from existing in perpetuity.
However, PELs already come with a fixed term and legislation needs to be amended to close the loophole that allows them to continue existing once they expire.
"This is a step in the right direction. It's consistent with what they're trying to do to get rid of the PELs that aren't going to be used," Mr Layzell said.
"At one stage 10 years ago, 50pc of the state was covered in these PELs, now that's down to 1.5pc - but I understand if you're in that 1.5pc, you're no happier today than you were yesterday.
"Whether you agree or disagree about if they work, the environmental protections are there. I'm still committed to the fact that there shouldn't be gas exploration on the Liverpool Plains."
The Land contacted Kevin Anderson for comment, however, his office said the MP was on leave.
NSW Farmers condemn decision
Wednesday's announcement drew condemnation from several corners of the state's agricultural sector, including NSW Farmers president James Jackson, who said while the association supported the use of gas as an energy source, it was extremely disappointed with the NSW government's decision to identify the Liverpool Plains as appropriate for gas exploration.
"We are dismayed at the trade-offs being made by government in selecting large areas of highly productive agricultural areas for future gas supply. This approach picks winners and losers," Mr Jackson said.
"Three months ago, the government cancelled Shenhua's exploration license. Today [Wednesday], NSW agriculture is again under threat.
"At the time of the Shenhua decision, the Deputy Premier clearly stated that 'It means there is no mining here on the Liverpool Plains. It's the end of this saga! Full stop. Full stop.'
"Our members thought they had some certainty, 90 days on that certainty has been taken from them."
Mr Jackson's sentiments were backed up by NSW Country Women's Association chief executive officer Danica Leys, who said Wednesday's announcement provided no clarity to landholders.
"The NSW Government claims this provides certainty - it does exactly the opposite," Ms Leys said.
"It is outrageous that the areas around the current Santos Narrabri Gas Project have been ear-marked for future gas development. Surely these communities deserve some semblance of certainty after so long.
"If the government's own approach is good enough for other regions impacted by zombie PELs, it's good enough for this region."
Mr Butler said the criticism was justified and that he was "amazed" MPs hadn't crossed the floor of Parliament in response to community opposition to the issue.
"During election campaigns we heard candidates talk about their opposition to CSG and that they were fighting tooth and nail to change the Nationals policy, then they get elected and all of a sudden they like gas," he said.
"I don't really understand that.
"The CWA and NSW Farmers should be the core constituency of the Nationals and whether it's Inland Rail, the mouse plague or CSG, I don't think they are listening to their constituency, which I think is to their detriment."
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