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Anti CSG group calls for wider public consultation

Gasfield Free Northern Rivers fears that references to CSG in the Draft North Coast Plan means new CSG exploration licences could be issued in the future, and was critical of Planning NSW only holding briefings at Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads during April. “The communities of Lismore, Grafton, Casino and Kyogle were all active in resisting gas fields in the region but are not being given the opportunity to discuss the highly controversial draft plan, which promotes the CSG industry in the Northern Rivers,” Gasfield Free spokesperson Ian Gaillard said in a media release. The Independent contacted Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ office by phone and email, to try and confirm (or not) Gasfield Free’s criticism, regarding the briefings. Subsequently the Independent was contacted by NSW Department of Planning & Environment’s senior public affairs officer, who responded to the enquiry, which asked for confirmation of where and on what dates the briefings would be held, and why there are no consultations programmed for other regional centres such as Lismore, Grafton, Ballina or Byron Bay. Emailed response: “The Department has invited local councils, community and environmental groups to be briefed on the draft North Coast Regional Plan over the public consultation period. “Any group that would like further information on the Plan can call the Grafton office of the Department of Planning & Environment on 6641 6600. “Anyone in the community can make a submission during the public exhibition of the draft North Coast Regional Plan, which runs until 2 June. “Members of the public can also complete an online survey and view an interactive map showing the main points of the draft Plan. “Go to: “The community can also make submissions by mail – Director Regions, Northern, Locked Bag 9022, Grafton NSW 2460.” Gasfield Free’s Ian Gaillard told the Independent that his organisation and other like-minded groups (some of which have received invites) would “seek a seat at the table” at one of the briefings, “probably at Tweed Heads”. “Given that his region has been the epicentre and towns affected by CSG proposals, it would have been courteous of the government to hold a meeting here [Lismore] rather than having to attend consultations at distant places,” he said. “Were vitally interested in what is being planned and to emphasise that CSG no means no CSG.” Mr Gilliard confirmed that the briefings would take place at Tweed Heads, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie on April 27, 28 and 29 respectively. The invitation to the briefings states: “For the first time, strategic planning for the Far North Coast and Mid North Coast is consolidated into a single region, while recognising subregional differences in communities along the coast. “The draft Plan identifies goals for the region including: • A natural environment, Aboriginal and historic heritage that is protected and landscapes that are productive; • Offer housing choice in vibrant communities and liveable places; • Housing that meet the needs of changing communities; • A prosperous economy with services and infrastructure; and, • Improved transport connectivity and freight networks.