Gunnedah Shire Council has refused to declare whether it would support or oppose potential gas extraction within its shire boundary.

It follows anti-gas protests on Milroy Road last week which attempted to halt gas survey activities in areas south of Gunnedah.

Liverpool Plains Action Group spokesperson Doug Frend pleaded with government representatives to aid their defence of probable gas drilling in the area. 

The landholder believes the risk to water supply and contamination was too great, not only for his livelihood and farming enterprise, but those across the state.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson was adamant last week he would oppose any gas mining on “prime agricultural land” and the Liverpool Plains. This is despite the government’s Future of Gas Statement which sets a clear and consistent policy framework for gas exploration and development in NSW.

The government says the policy will not only support access to affordable energy but also provide certainty to the gas sector, communities and landholders across NSW.

Mr Frend, who was joined by other concerned farmers and environmentalists in days of protest action, also called for support from Gunnedah Shire Council which he described as “less than supportive” in its response so far.

The Gunnedah Times enquired about council’s position on gas in the shire but received a less than clear response.

Mayor Jamie Chaffey referred the newspaper to council’s December 2020 Town Planning – Resource Development document which aims to achieve “balanced and sustainable outcomes that adequately contribute to the local economy and community while having regard to the principles of ecologically sustainable development”.

Among the considerations the document lists as “critical areas” when weighing up a resource development proposal are soil and geological issues, agricultural implications, water issues (general) and groundwater impacts.

Cr Chaffey pointed to how the state government is ultimately responsible for determining whether gas projects proceeded and declined to answer whether council would support or oppose determinations given the green light.

The state also has the reins on other major projects in the shire, such as the redevelopment of Gunnedah Hospital and the council has been publicly vocal about this at length. From project delays to bed shortages and funding commitments, Gunnedah council has highlighted the deficiencies – as it should too, the community deserves better, especially when it comes to health. But on gas, another project at mercy of the state, we know very little about council’s intention. If a local government election was held tomorrow, do we know if council would fight for ratepayers on gas development, like it has on health?

The community deserves to know where our elected representatives stand on certain issues, especially those of major importance – refusing to answer just won’t cut it. 

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