Gasfields tour provides valuable insights
UPDATE, 11am: Richmond Valley Council senior staff and councillors have just returned from a two day fact-finding mission to the CSG fields on Queensland's Darling Downs.
Richmond Valley mayor Ernie Bennett said the expedition met with a range of groups and individuals in Dalby, Tara, Chinchilla and surrounds, including their council counterparts at the Western Downs Regional Council headquartered in Dalby.
"We were there to find out from the council's point of view about the whole economic development of the industry," Cr Bennett said.
"It's not just how we accommodate an influx of a thousand workers... because that then brings on other economic development and other people need to come to town."
Cr Bennet suggested Western Downs Regional Council was certainly not providing an open slather for the CSG industry.
"You could detect that some councillors still had a really close watch over the whole thing," he said.
He also mentioned he was surprised by minor visual impact of the wells.
"There wasn't as many wells visually as I thought there'd be."
The group visited a 3000ha cropping property whose owner led a local sustainability group, and met individuals in Tara who 'claim to have had health issues as a result of gas-field activity.'
A visit to two gas-fired power stations and the Arrow Energy office in Dalby also provided them with an insight into the industry's presence in the area.
Council are now meeting with representatives from Queensland departments of Natural Resources, Mines, Health, and Environment, local MPs and senior executives from Metgasco.
A council position statement on CSG is expected to be released prior to Christmas once these meetings have been completed.
8.30am: Richmond Valley Council is arranging a meeting with local State MPs and coal seam gas companies operating on the Northern Rivers after a two-day tour of Queensland's gas fields.
However, the councillors are not saying whether the trip has convinced them of the benefits of the industry or reinforced concerns about its impact.
The councillors voted several weeks ago to embark on the tour to give themselves a better understanding of how coal seam gas drilling worked and the impact it had on surrounding communities.
In a statement, Richmond Valley Council general manager John Walker said councillors on the trip met with people and organisations "who provided input from all sides of the issue".
"The Council visited the areas of Dalby, Tara and Chinchilla and met with representatives of local and state governments, as well as land owners and representatives and opponents of the industry," Mr Walker was quoted saying in the statement.
"We also heard from people who claim to have had health issues as result of gas-field activity."
Richmond Valley Mayor Ernie Bennett said the council would now prepare a a position statement on its approach to the coal seam gas industry in the Richmond Valley council area. The statement was expected to be finished before Christmas.
"Council is satisfied with the information and knowledge obtained from the visit, however, there will be no specific comments made until Council's position is determined," Cr Bennett was quoted saying in the statement.
The return of the Richmond Valley councillors came as more 300 people gathered at the Byron Shire Council chambers at Mullumbimby to hear the detail of an application by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council for an exploration licence on the Northern Rivers.
The application has been opposed by Byron Shire Council and local traditional owners who have said they were not consulted by the Land Council about the application.
ABC Radio has reported the meeting was addressed by members of the Arakwal and Githabul clans opposing the application and been told by Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson the meeting was so crowded he had to sit on the floor.
"I suspected it was going to be large and when I first got here and I couldn't get in the door, I was slightly surprised about that, and when I had to, sort of, sit on the ground - I mean, it was wonderful wasn't it. There was hundreds here and there wasn't a square piece of carpet and it was wonderful for a community-building exercise as much as a CSG focus," Cr Richardson said.