Nationals stance on CSG 'more confused than ever'
DEPUTY Premier Troy Grant has sworn he wants to rid the Northern Rivers of coal seam gas mining, but remains vague on how it will be achieved and what it will cost.
Even more unclear is his boss's stance, leaving a question mark hanging over the future of Metgasco's Supreme Court-sanctioned project at Bentley.
Premier Mike Baird only says the government plans to buy back several CSG exploration licences across the state, but refuses to identify which.
Mr Grant's reassurance of his no-CSG position followed remarkable and puzzling scenes at the National Party's national conference in the Hunter Valley on Friday.
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis called for a vote making the Northern Rivers CSG-free, only to have it shut down after almost two hours of debate.
But as the argument raged, Lismore MP Thomas George successfully reasoned there was no need for a vote - which would have shown the party's commitment on a national scale - because it was already an accepted policy of the NSW branch.
The chaos threw Gasfield Free Northern Rivers co-ordinator Dean Draper into a spin yesterday.
"The community of the Northern Rivers are more confused than ever as to where the National Party stands on CSG mining in our region," he said.
"A motion put forward by Chris Gulaptis to talk about buying back all of the licences in the region did not even get sufficient support to be put to a vote.
"Some segments of the party are saying the motion didn't fly because it was already parliamentary policy, but only one licence was talked about before the election and there was mention of one other Metgasco licence.
"Now we hear Troy Grant on the radio backing away from his comments supporting a ban on unconventional gas in the whole Northern Rivers."
Mr Grant did not directly answer when asked whether the Nationals were committed to buying back Metgasco's licence, how much it would cost and how long it would take.
He said there were "a number of further negotiations underway" and he still supported locals' views "the same as before the state election".
When asked why the party would bother having a two-hour debate about the issue, if there was never any intention or need for it to go to a vote, he said it was "a matter for delegates".
"Any Nationals Party member can bring a motion before conference," Mr Grant said.
The Premier would not comment on whether he supported his sister party's no-CSG stance for the region, except to list the government's success in reducing the area of NSW covered by exploration licences from about half to 11%.
Politicians' dancing around the issue has left anti-CSG campaigners calling for the Liberal-Nationals to give a straight answer to one question: Will you buy back Metgasco's licence?
"Division in the National Party prevented the motion being put to the delegates at the conference and now it seems Troy Grant is backing away from his support," Mr Draper said.
"We're calling on the National Party to urgently clarify their position, and to release a clear and fully articulated policy that respects the wishes of the Northern Rivers as a whole, and protects our land and water resources." -APN NEWSDESK
Deputy Premier Troy Grant responds to quizzing about CSG in the Northern Rivers
Q: Are the Nationals committed to buying back all CSG licences in the Northern Rivers, including the one held by Metgasco?
A: Through the Liberals and Nationals Government's Gas Plan, some CSG licences in the Northern Rivers have been bought back with a number of further negotiations underway. The Deputy Premier's position of supporting the Gas Plan and supporting the Northern Rivers community views on coal seam gas remain the same as before the state election.
Q: By what timeframe will this be completed and how much will it cost?
A: No answer
Q: Why was the plan not put to a vote at the National Party's national conference on Friday? Were there concerns it would not have enough support?
A: Any Nationals Party member can bring a motion before conference. What's debated at conference is a matter for delegates.
Q: If there was never any need to vote on whether to adopt the policy, because it had already been adopted, why was the issue debated for more than an hour? Why did Chris Gulaptis put a motion calling for attendees at the national conference to have a vote?
A: No answer