(Debate, 20 March 2014, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
There is strong support for the Coal Seam Gas Prohibition (Sydney Water Catchment Special Areas) Bill 2013. Many of my constituents have asked me to vote in favour of it. The bill bans coal seam gas activity in the Sydney and Illawarra water catchment areas. Mining activities can have devastating, permanent impacts on water systems. Adjacent land is cleared and degraded, removing vital habitat for ecosystems that sustain clean and healthy water. Pollution from dust and chemicals contaminates the water, which makes it unsafe to drink and further harms the ecosystems.
In February last year, the State Government approved expansion of the Dendrobium Mine for longwall mining under 12 upland swamps within the Avon dam system, which supplies 8 per cent to 9 per cent of Sydney's drinking water. Upland swamps filter contaminants from the water before it reaches the catchment. Subsidence and cracking caused by mining could drain and pollute these swamps. The Sydney Catchment Authority and the Office of Environment and Heritage say remediation of these swamps is unlikely. Swamps are vital to the health of our catchments and should not be put at risk. In fact, the four mines already in operation in the Sydney catchment area drain about three billion litres of water from Sydney's supply each year. Coal seam gas exploration licences also exist across Sydney's five big drinking water catchments. These should not be developed into full mines. Contaminated water stores for coal seam gas mining could burst or overflow and pollute the catchments.
The Sydney Catchment Authority wants coal seam gas mining banned from catchment designated special areas because it could significantly compromise their values. It also wants to ban longwall mining near major lakes and reservoirs. Sydney's water catchment provides drinking water to 4.5 million people in the Sydney-Illawarra region. The Sydney metropolitan strategy predicts that by 2031 Sydney will need to accommodate an extra 1.3 million people. Securing a large supply of safe, clean drinking water will be essential to our quality of life. We should not risk the integrity of Sydney's water catchments for short-term mining profits. Contamination is not something that can be safely fixed. The State Government has moved to ban new coal seam gas activities within two kilometres of residential areas and has initiated an independent review of coal seam gas activities by the New South Wales Chief Scientist and Engineer.
The Government should go further and ban mining and coal seam gas activities in and adjacent to drinking water catchment areas. Our water catchments provide an essential and irreplaceable service, and any risky activity should be banned, not managed. I support the amendments proposed by the member for Balmain, which will extend the ban to include all petroleum and coalmining activities in all drinking catchments that support a population of 50 or more. Longwall mining under creeks and waterways that service the Sydney catchment area is a particular concern, with cracked riverbeds from mining activities causing subsidence that reduces the amount of clean water reaching our catchments. Mining is a heavy-duty industrial activity that has no place in the delicate ecosystems of our water supplies. I support the bill and I support the proposed amendments.
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