CSG put to vote
LISMORE City Council will stage a poll to gauge views on coal-seam gas drilling in conjunction with the September 8 local government election.
But CSG company Metgasco chief Peter Henderson has questioned whether the poll - which could cost as much as $42,000 - was good value for money.
Mr Henderson said poll participation was optional, and the results would be non-binding as the State Government was the consent authority for the CSG industry, not the council.
"Ratepayers are entitled to ask...is spending up to $40,000 the best use of our money?" he said.
The council on Tuesday voted 6-5 in support of the poll motion put forward by Mayor Jenny Dowell, who said CSG was one of the most significant community issues of this generation.
Council staff will be asked to prepare draft questions for the optional referendum to be presented to elected councillors for evaluation in May or June.
Staff will also formulate a report setting out the 'yes/no' case for CSG.
Cr Dowell said the poll's "objective data" would finally settle whether it was really just a noisy minority opposed to CSG as the industry claimed.
It could also inform the NSW Department of Planning's Strategic Land Use Plans for the Northern Rivers which was expected to be developed for consultation within the next 18 months.
"I've only had one person who has sent me several emails in support of CSG, but there may be other people out there," she said.
"It's only in the secret of the ballot box that we can find out our community views."
Cr Dowell said she had informed Metgasco of her poll proposal ahead of Tuesday's meeting as an act of courtesy.
The NSW Electoral Commission has provided Lismore City Council with a quote of $42,000 to conduct the poll, but Mayor Jenny Dowell believes that figure can be reduced to $10,000.
However, some councillors argue the cost could only be cut at the expense of advertising and community consultation.
Cr Neil Marks, who opposed the poll despite it originally being his idea, said $10,000 was "optimistic".
He said because the referendum was optional, it could turn out to be an expensive flop unless money was spent to inform the community about it.
He said it was already clear most of the community opposed coal seam gas drilling.