CSG and mining could go ahead in Hunter’s wine growing region

The Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher said he cannot rule out coal seam gas or mining projects in the Hunter.

After meeting with the Department of Planning yesterday vignerons say they are now forced to prove parcels of land in the Wine Country are critical, rather than using a blanket protection approach promised last year, The ABC reported.

Vigneron’s are not happy, with one saying the government was 'Swiss cheesing' the region and opening the door for CSG drilling.

However, Hartcher said there were policies in place to protect the Hunter region.

"People should have no concerns because there will be no mining or CSG in critical industry clusters unless they've been thoroughly assessed by an independent body, a planning assessment commission," he said.

"It won't be assessed by me as minister, they won't be assessed by the government, they'll be all assessed independently on the strictest possible criteria to make sure our horse studs are protected and our vignerons are protected."

Hartcher said that CSG and mining application would have to pass strict assessments before they are approved.

"And the planning assessment commission only approves them after it's examined all the evidence that it's checked out every water study, it's checked out every hydrological study, it's checked out every dusts study, it's checked out every traffic study, it's consulted with the local community and the Planning Assessment Commission group can then say it's safe," he said.

Expanding mining and operations have been a contentious issue in the region of late.

AGL Energy's Gloucester Gas project was approved by the federal government this week, a project which will see AGL drill up to 110 coal seam gas wells and includes approval for fracking and the construction of a pipeline from Gloucester to Hexham.

CSG is a contentious issue attracting great public scrutiny at present.

In January more than 100 local Hunter Valley residents unanimously voted to halt all coal mining expansions and developments surrounding the Upper Hunter town of Jerry’s Plains.

Spokeswoman for the Hunter Communities Network, Bev Smiles said locals are now demanding action.
"There was a call for a moratorium on all coal mining proposals and development applications encircling Jerrys Plains until such time as the cumulative impacts are seriously taken into account," she said.

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