I congratulate the activists and environmentalists who have worked so hard to collect more than 10,000 signatures to this important petition. Like the signatories, I have deep and grave concerns about the risks of coal seam gas [CSG] exploration and extraction.
In 2015 I welcomed the Labor policy announcement to adopt a moratorium on coal seam gas across the State. In my electorate of the Blue Mountains the community takes a very keen interest in the evolution of public policy in this area. The villages of the Blue Mountains are sited along a ridge line that cuts straight through the middle of pristine, World Heritage listed national park. The national park also takes in much of the waterways that form Sydney's drinking water catchment area that feeds Warragamba Dam.
To this end, I highlight the first of six points that the petition makes. It is absolutely critical that we protect our waterways and our drinking water catchments. Ensuring coal seam gas exploration and extraction is banned from these sensitive areas is the first step towards this. However, we must also reduce the impact on these waterways by other mining activity.
For example, the Centennial Coal Springvale mine is currently discharging highly saline effluent water into the Coxs River, which flows through our World Heritage area and into the Sydney drinking water supply at Warragamba. The Berejiklian Government is permitting this to occur at levels many factors greater than the recommended maximum level of salinity in discharges of this nature. It is a crying shame.
I note for the benefit of those in the gallery that Labor’s Shadow Minister the Hon. Adam Searle MLC has had his Coal Seam and Other Unconventional Gas Moratorium Bill before the Legislative Council since 2015. It now falls to the Government to support rather than impede the bill's progress through Parliament.
As the Hon. Adam Searle noted, we simply do not know enough about the longer term impacts of extracting gas from coal seams and until we do no prudent government can permit further development of the industry. Until there is a scientific consensus that CSG mining will not damage aquifers and groundwater systems we need to put a stop to further exploration and extraction.
Further to the matter of CSG mining the petition touches on more traditional mining activities. I have mentioned my concerns about mining effluent that is damaging waterways in the Blue Mountains. I remind the House that the same operator was also responsible for an environmental catastrophe in the Wollangambe River, another Blue Mountains waterway.
To this end I call upon this Government to get serious about environmental protections and regulations. The Environment Protection Authority needs to be adequately funded to investigate and prosecute environmental breaches at mines, and it needs to be given teeth to ensure potential catastrophes are identified and averted before they are allowed to occur.
I thank all those activists across our State involved in the critical task of raising awareness of this issue. I particularly thank the Lock the Gate Alliance, Our Land Our Water Our Future campaigners, the Knitting Nannas, the Blue Mountains Stop CSG Group, the Nature Conservation Council and my beloved Blue Mountains Conservation Society.