Coal Seam Gas Mining in Water Catchment Areas
(4:58pm, 17 October 2013, Debate, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
I thank those people seated in the gallery for the great work they have done in gathering another 10,000 signatures and for their strong visual presence to illustrate their opposition to coal seam gas mining in water catchment areas. I support the request of over 10,000 petitioners for a ban on coal seam gas mining in 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 contaminate the water, which makes it unsafe to drink and further harms the ecosystems. Cracked riverbeds from mining activity can cause subsidence, which reduces the amount of clean water reaching our catchments. In February the State Government approved expansions to the Dendrobium mine for long-walls under 12 upland swamps within the Avon dam, 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, and subsidence and cracking 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 operating in Sydney's metropolitan special areas 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. I share concern with the petitioners that these should not be developed into full mines. Contaminated water stores for coal seam gas mining could burst or overflow and pollute the catchments.
Coal seam gas mining is a heavy-duty industrial activity that has no place in the delicate ecosystems of our water supplies. The Sydney Catchment Authority wants coal seam gas banned from catchment designated special areas because it could significantly compromise their values, as well as 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 in the face of population growth. 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 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. These are good first steps and I oppose proposals by the Federal Government to intervene and fast-track coal seam gas approvals. The State Government should go further and ban mining and coal seam gas activities in and adjacent to drinking water catchments. Our water catchments provide an essential and irreplaceable service and any risk should be banned, not managed.