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Member of the Legislative Council Catherine Cusack has thrown her support behind the Clarence Catchment Alliance’s and Clarence Valley Council’s opposition to mining in the Clarence River Catchment. Image: Geoff Helisma

Liberal MP to table anti mining petition

Geoff Helisma

Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) Catherine Cusack will table the Clarence Catchment Alliance’s (CCA) anti-mining petition in the NSW Upper House.

Alliance members presented the more than 10,000-signature petition to the Liberal MLC at the Lawrence hall on Friday May 7.

Alliance coordinator Shae Fleming told those gathered that 10,893 hand-written signatures were collected over the past two-and-a-half years and that 10,427 signatures have been validated.

Previously, Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis questioned the need for the petition in an interview with ABC North Coast on Monday May 3; and at the April 27 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting – at which CVC reaffirmed its opposition to, and support for a moratorium on, mining in the catchment – Cr Andrew Baker erroneously claimed the petition included signatures collected online.

Member of the Legislative Council Catherine Cusack, pictured with CCA members and invited guests, said she was “honoured to ensure that the Clarence Catchment Alliance’s views are going to be represented by tabling this petition in the upper house”, which was hand-signed by 10,893 people over the past 2.5 years. The CCA says that 10,427 of the signatures have been validated. Image: Geoff Helisma

“We held the paper, handed them the pens and watched them sign,” Ms Fleming said.

“I hope community leaders will tell the community the truth about the petition.”

Following an electronic presentation, which specified the perceived environmental, ecological, social, cultural and economic threats posed by mining in the catchment, Ms Cusack described CCA’s campaign and information data base as “astonishing” and thanked CCA members for their “leadership”.

She praised “the broad range of stakeholders” and their “level of awareness about prevention of damage” from mining.

Following the handover, Ms Cusack told the Independent she didn’t “believe community consultation is occurring early enough” – Mr Gulaptis told the ABC that CVC’s call for a moratorium on mining in the valley [is] “rash and ill-considered”.

“We just have to be sensible and adult about this and determine it on the basis of facts; and there are no facts at the moment to make such a determination,” Mr Gulaptis said.

On the other hand, Ms Cusack said she was “actually feeling like I’m participating, today, in the community consultation process that the Clarence Valley has been denied”.

“I find that disappointing, but I am very pleased to put these concerns forward,” she said.

“What I’m hearing from the community today is that there are no acceptable risks and that … anything endangering the river and the life and identity it brings to the Clarence Valley is not acceptable to them.

“I’m honoured to ensure that their views are going to be represented by tabling this petition in the upper house.

“In my opinion, consulting people about things, like mining their environmental assets, is absolutely essential before [the government does] anything– I think that’s good manners and prudent for public policy.”

Ms Cusack suggested that Mr Gulaptis had virtually “put the case for finding out more information” before exploration licences were issued when he told the ABC: “We need to find out what is there … to see if the benefits outweigh the risks, and we’re never going to know that until such time as an application [to mine] has been made.”

Ms Cusack: “What has been said here [by Mr Gulaptis] is that the role of the government is such, that where there are opportunities to create jobs through mining, the government is generally supporting that.”

She said she had visited “a number of different sites at … near Lithgow” last week, where [she] “inspected swamps that were undermined by coal mining”. “I don’t believe in the [biodiversity] offset scheme any longer, because what I am seeing is unique and unreplaceable assets being destroyed,” she said.

“I’ve become disillusioned with the process.”

On the perception that she was undermining Mr Gulaptis, Ms Cusack said she had “a specific role” in the Liberal Party “representing the north coast”.

“I live at Lennox Head and any constituent is entitled to contact me; they all pay my salary.

“No area or community belongs to any politician and every community should have the right to call on anybody in the parliament to hear their concerns.

“From Chris’s point of view, I know he wants the best for his community.

“[However], people in this community have asked me to assist them….

“In relation to consultation with indigenous communities, I’m horrified by the way it has been done by the government; I’m scandalised by it.

“What I am hearing here today just reinforces it in my mind.

“I think this government needs to, almost, stop any proposal that requires consultation with traditional owners, because what I am seeing is that all of it is being done really badly – the government almost needs to do an audit and get a grip on why [it] is so terrible.

“These communities are not being respected.”