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The Scenic Hills today


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 'Water holes' established by explorer Captain Charles Sturt in the 1830s (Source Carmelite Nuns, SHA)

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Old stands of 19th Century Cumberland Plain Woodland, now listed as 'critically endangered' (Source Jacqui Kirkby, SHA)

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Old farm fences and distant views (Source Jacqui Kirkby, SHA)

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Eastern Rosellas stop by for a dip (Source Jacqui Kirkby, SHA)

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Crows in a 'heart to heart' (Source Jacqui Kirkby, SHA)

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Mysterious black cockatoos (Source Jacqui Kirkby, SHA)

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Carmelite Monastery with horses (Source Jacqui Kirkby, SHA)

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Old gardens with distant views (Source Jacqui Kirkby, SHA)



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Coal Seam Gas Photos

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An aerial picture of coal seam gas mining in Queensland. (File: ABC via AAP)

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Carbon footprint ... An existing coal seam gas plant at Campbelltown. (Source: The Sunday Telegraph)

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Authorities battle to halt a leak in a coal seam gas well near Dalby, Queensland, May 2011. (Source: Supplied to The Australian)
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Drilling for coal seam gas on the Darling Downs in Queensland (Source: Arlie Douglas/ABC Rural)

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AGL's Rosalind Park Gas Plant at Menangle 2009 (from HVPA website)

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AGL's Rosalind Park Gas Plant at Menangle 2010 (Source Macarthur Chronicle)

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 Sydney Gas Company coal-seam methane drilling rig at Rosalind Park, Camden, 02/04.NSW  (Source: Supplied to The Australian)

 

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Over the next five years, tens of thousands of gas wells are either planned or already approved for construction, SMH 5/9/11. (Photo: Glen Hunt)

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Been warned: AGL has admitted a blowout at its gas well near Glen Alpine was unacceptable. (Macarthur Advertiser 17/8/11)
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Laying gas pipeline at Tara, Queensland (from HVPA website)

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Dead trees caused by a spill from a CSG evaporation pond in the Pilliga Scrub, NSW, 2001 (from " A Question of Balance" website,  Photo by M Atikinson)

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Dead trees around the reverse osmosis plant and dams from another spill in the Pilliiga Scrub, October 2011(from " A Question of Balance", Photo by Milton Judd)

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PROTEST: Residents rally against AGL at Pooles Rock Vineyard in the Hunter Valley, NSW, October 2011 (Source Newcastle Herald)

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People protesting against coal seam gas mining at Austinmer Beach, Illawarra on May 29, 2011. ( Photographer:  Michael O'Brien)

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Scenic Hills Association at the NSW Election Rally"Can't eat coal, Can't drink gas", March 2011 (Source Greg Burke, SHA)
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SHA at the NSW Election Rally  "Can't eat coal, Can't drink gas", March 2011 (Source Greg Burke, SHA)
 
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Council Elections 2016 (Updated July 2017)
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We congratulate all those councillors who were elected on their promises and past actions in a open and honest manner. Unfortunately no one knew that Cr Paul Lake had secretly voted on the JRPP - just a day before the elections - to rezone land in the Scenic Hills for a massive cemetery. If he'd thought it was a vote-winner he'd have told us. 'Community First'? We don't think so.
 

Cr Paul Lake with Premier Baird at the Ingleburn Chamber of Commerce
(Source: South West Voice)

ABC News 11th September 2016: NSW Council Elections: swings against Liberals blamed on Baird

Note: Councillor Fred Borg died just before Christmas creating a by-election in March 2017. There was a view that it should have gone to Fred's third candidate Gary Potts. However Labor and Paul Lake's Community First Party decided to run candidates against him. Labor was ensured victory without winning a majority because the independent vote was split by Lake's candidate. Labor preferenced Paul Lake's candidate.

Many people did not know that there was a by-election and have since been fined.
See Macarthur Advertiser:
Almost 26000 Campbelltonians Fined


The new Campbelltown Council will consist of the following councillors (as amended):

Labor (8): George Brticevic, Meg Oates, Darcy Lound, Margaret Chivers, Rey Manoto, Masood     Chowdhury, Karen Hunt, Ben Gilholme

Liberal (3): George Greiss, Ted Rowell, Ralph George

Totally Locally Committed (1):
[Fred Borg] Warren Morrison

Bob Thompson Independents (1): Bob Thompson

Greens (1): Ben Moroney

Community First (1): Paul Lake

For more information on Campbelltown & Camden election results see: NSW Electoral Commission - NSW Council Elections

 

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Coal Seam Gas mining in Campbelltown's Scenic Hills and Camden's new residential estates - Camden Gas Project Stage 3, Northern Expansion.

February 2016 AGL announced it had cancelled its Northern Expansion and would close the Camden Gas Project by 2023. Below is the history of our fight.

_______________________________________

2013: Submissions on AGL's Stage 3 application closed 8th February 2013. However, since then the project application has been placed on hold and the NSW Government has announced a ban on CSG mining within 2 km of urban areas. We are now waiting on the Government to formalise its policy so that the status of this project and prior stages of the Camden Gas Project can be assessed. In the interim the NSW Department of Planning has said it will continue to take late submissions until further notice. See below:


In this section you will find:

I. Background to the Project
II. What Now?
III.How to make a submission
IV. Useful information to help with your submission
____________________________

(I) Background to the Project:

The Camden Gas Project (CGP) has been producing coal seam gas in the Macarthur Region of NSW (Wollondilly, Camden & Campbelltown local government areas) on the south west outskirts of Sydney for ten years. It was originally owned and operated by Sydney Gas Limited, later in partnership with AGL Energy Limited (AGL). In 2009 AGL acquired Sydney Gas so that AGL became wholly responsible for its operations.

In 2009 AGL applied to the NSW Government under the controversial Part 3A legislation to expand the Camden Gas Project northwards into the Scenic Hills and suburbs of Campbelltown and Camden (within the Sydney Metropolitan Area). Following concerns raised by government agencies, councils and the public, the NSW Minister for Planning announced that AGL could not build a gas treatment plant in the Hills as part of the project.

AGL had been quoted in the media as saying it could not proceed without the plant. Nevertheless it resubmitted its application, and the Environmental Assessment for the modified Stage 3 proposal went on Public Exhibition on the 26th October 2010 with no explanation from AGL about how it intended to get its gas back under pressure to its existing Rosalind Park gas treatment plant at Menangle. Submissions from the public closed on the 7th December 2010 but with later submissions being accepted until recently. Twenty eight submissions were made. No decision had been made prior to the change of government in March 2011.

Change of government March 2011

Following the change of government and the subsequent abolition of the Part 3A legislation, the new NSW Minister for Planning the Hon. Brad Hazzard decreed that, along with other 'controversial' applications, the CGP Stage 3 Northern Expansion would be decided by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) under the transitional arrangements for the staged repeal of Part 3A of the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the EP&A Act). This decision left open the right of the community to challenge the merits of the PACs decision in the Land & Environment Court (LEC).

On the 2nd November 2012, the NSW Department of Planning & Infrastructure (DoPI) sent letters to those residents who had made submissions in 2010, announcing that that it was allowing AGL to transfer its Amended Application from the old Part 3A legislation to the government's new State Significant (SSD) legislation and that, in addition to asking the PAC to decide the outcome, the Minister was also referring the project to the PAC for a merit review including holding public hearings. The request to the PAC to do a merit review with public hearings wiped out the right of the community to challenge the quality of the PAC's decision in the Land and Environment Court (LEC). Going to the LEC would have enabled us to cross-examine AGL's experts in a truly independent way.

 

SHA Media Release: SHA Media Release CGP3 November                                                       NSW Department of Planning & Infrastructure: DoPI Media Release CGP3 November                    AGL Energy Limited: AGL Media Rlease CGP3 November

Sydney Morning Herald, 10th November 2012: Coal seam gas plan will put 66 wells in southwest Macarthur Advertiser, 7th November 2012: Coal Seam Gas process meets with cynicism
Alan Jones Show, 4th December 2012: Coal seam gas fields

 

On 23rd November 2012, the ABC's 7.30 NSW interviewed SHA spokesperson Jacqui Kirkby, and the Planning Minister about the loss of appeal rights and Terms of Reference(TOR) for the Planning Assessment Commission. The Minister accused ABC's Quentin Dempster and the community of 'mixing up' issues and claimed that the loss of appeal rights was not because of an action of his government. None of this is true.

On the 5th December the SHA issued the following media release: SHA Media Release 5th December 2012

Watch the two video clips:

ABC 7.30 NSW 23rd November 2012: A Lack of Trust
ABC 7.30 NSW 23rd November 2012: NSW Planning Minister defends Development Regulations

.
...and Planning Minister makes fun of Western Sydney residents concerns

Channel 7 News 23rd November 2012: Exclusive cross-city csg drilling
Channel 7 News 24th November 2012: Protests against sydney csg plans


Finally, AGL 'blinks'...


On Friday 8th February, the last day the community could make submissions to the NSW Department of Planning (DoPI), AGL announced it was suspending its application and requested that  the NSW Department of Planning cancel the public hearings. An impressive 3200 submissions were received...including a damning submission by NSW Health.

The DoPI has now cancelled the hearings and placed the project 'on hold'. See AGL's Media Release Click here

Then the Government 'blinks'...

On Friday 19th February, the O'Farrell Government announced a sudden change of heart on coal seam gas mining in NSW. It's proposed policy will create 'no go zones' for CSG mining within 2 kms of residential areas and future growth areas and in areas that have industry clusters such as the wine growing and horse breeding areas of the Hunter Valley. Local MPs claim that this makes AGL's Camden Gas Project Stage 3 'dead in the water' but we remain cautious, as do groups in the Hunter Valley. The new policy is yet to be embedded in law.

Media releases:

NSW Government

Scenic Hills Association
AGL Energy Limited
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(II) What now?

AGL has indicated that it will fight the Government's new policy and has refused to withdraw its application. The NSW Department of Planning is continuing to take additional and late submissions for as long as the project remains 'on hold'. We are urging residents affected by AGL's Camden Gas Project Stage 3 who haven't yet sent in a submission to do so now and urge family and friends to do likewise. In the following sections we tell you how to do this and give you useful information to help.

 
 

_________________________________

(III) How to make a submission:

 

(1) Making new submissions or adding to previous ones:

(a) If you have already made a submission to the NSW Department of Planning you can still add to that submission. Just refer to your previous submission and say you want to add further information to it.

(b) If you have not yet made a submission you can make a late submission to the NSW Department of Planning.

(c)
In making your submission you need to address one or more of the Terms of Reference (TOR) provided by the Minister to the Planning Assessment Commission who will review the project before determination (if the application is re-opened). While there are specific terms here, you can nominate anything you think is significant. This is contained in TOR 1b "any other potentially significant impacts of the project". See: CGP3 Terms of Reference

Note: The TORs did not specifically include the option for the PAC to recommend that the project application be refused, only that it be approved subject to conditions (see TOR 1c
). The Department of Planning has since confirmed that the reviewing PAC will be able to recommend that the project be refused, so you can ask for this in your submissions:
See Hansard

(d) You should state in your submission:
  • your name and address
  • the project application number (SSD-5848_Trans MP 09_0048)
  • whether you support or object to the application
  • the reasons why you support or object to it
  • if you do not want your name made public
  • if you have made reportable political donations of more than $1000. If so you need to include a form which you can find on the following link: http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/donations
(e) Address and post your submission to:

(2) Many people have told us that they don't know how to make a submission, yet when they talk to us what they say is perfect and 'from the heart' . The NSW Department of Planning needs to hear the human side of this project. To help you we have compiled the following two formats for you to choose between:

(3) You can find AGL's application, previous public submissions, AGL's response to those submissions and new submissions (that have already been processed) on the Website of the Major Projects NSW Department of Planning - Camden Gas Project Stage 3 (Northern Expansion)

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(IV) Useful Information to help with your submission (updated 11/2/13):

[Note; this is being continually updated, so please return soon]

 
(1) AGL's plan for CSG mining (& fracking) of Sydney will industrialise our suburbs & greenspaces with uncertain impacts on our health, environment, livelihoods and land values. For a brief summary of our position, read our updated flyer: CSG_flyer4j.pdf

To see a close-up map of the Amended Surface Project area (the area where the infrastructure of wells, pipelines, access roads etc will go): Click here


(2) Campbelltown and Camden urban areas will be fracked!  

 Despite recent misleading media reports, AGL will frack in Stage 3. As at December 2011 (according to information provided to the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas),
85% of the production wells in the Camden Gas Project area of Wollondilly, Camden and the outskirts of Campbelltown, had been fracked. This compares with statistics provided by Doctors for the Environment Australia to the 2011 Senate Inquiry (coal seam gas) of 10-40% of wells in Queensland. AGL has said it will continue to frack vertical wells in Stage 3 and will frack the horizontal wells if the technology permits it in the future (refer written advice to SHA 18th April 2012). This is because the gas is tightly held in the coal seams in the Sydney Basin and fracking is the most efficient way of releasing it.
  • In late 2012 AGL put out misleading statements about its intention to frack in Stage 3 that were quoted in the media and supported by politicians, including by Premier O'Farrell on 2GB. SHA  emailed AGL asking for an explanation (see our News & Events page 'AGL caught fracking with the truth'). AGL has since corrected that information:
Sydney Morning Herald, 16th January 2013: AGL breaks fracking pledge
  • The NSW Government recently asked the Chief Scientist to conduct a 'Review of Fracking'. This has confirmed the likelihood of AGL fracking in Stage 3 for the following reasons:
    • Experts confirm that the gas is tightly held in Permian Basins (e.g. Sydney, Gloucester and Gunnedah Basins) and will more likely require fracking;
    • Fracking is a more efficient way of releasing the gas;
    • Fracking is more likely to occur later in the project when the remaining gas is more difficult to extract.
    • This information is consistent with information provided by AGL in the Camden Gas Project Community Consultative Committee meetings and at the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas Mining in 2011. (Note: AGL's witness statements can be found in the 'Hearings' section of 17th November 2011): NSW Upper House Inquiry (coal seam gas)
    • For more information about the Chief Scientist's Review of Fracking, see the following papers extracted by the Greens under a freedom of information (GIPA) request and provided courtesy of Jeremy Buckingham's office: Greens GIPA request into fracking & coal seam gas
  • Read about overseas experience with fracking in unconventional gas mining (including shale gas and coal seam gas, both of which use fracking to release the gas):
Los Angeles Times, 24th October 2012: US gas bonanza from fracking slow to spread globally

New York Review of Book, 8th March 2012 "Fracked gas is not a 'bridge fuel' to some cleaner era, but a rickety pier extending indefinitely out into a hotter future." : Why not frack?
  • If you haven't seen the documentary film Gasland by Josh Fox on what has gone wrong in the USA with unconventional gas mining (including shale and coal seam gas mining, both of which use hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'), then watch this trailer: Gasland trailer and then contact the official Gasland site to acquire a copy: Gasland 
  • See more about fracking in the USA: Fracking Hell: the untold story

(3) Read about health & safety issues:
  • Read about what is happening in Queensland where CSG mining is more advanced:
On the 14th November 2012, academic researchers from the Southern Cross University in Queensland found methane levels at 3.5 times the expected level at the Tara Estate in Queensland.
Sydney Morning Herald, 17th November 2012: Doctors raise alarm over toxic coal seam gas leaks

Read the report from Southern Cross University: Click here

T
he CSG industry's association (APPEA) has criticised the research, describing it as 'preliminary' . This is fiercely debated in academic circles, but most appear to agree that although the research is still in its early stages, it is nevertheless compelling.

ABC Environment, 27th November 2012: Peer pressure, peer review and coal seam gas

We are deeply concerned about the implications of the findings on the Tara Estate for our area, and the cumulative impact of CSG mining here where there are already worrying levels of pollution. At the Camden Gas Project Community Consultative Committee of 16th August, the Environmental Protection Authority confirmed that "fine particles and ozone can at times be a concern in South West Sydney. There can be days, particularly in summer, when air quality goals for these pollutants are not met."

Update

Following the release of the above research Dr McDonald, whose electorate includes half the Scenic Hills, and who is the Shadow Minister for Health, lodged the following question
to Parliament on behalf of his electorate (15th November):
Question to Parliament #3165

The response from NSW Health referred Dr McDonald to an answer given to Jeremy Buckingham on the same issue. However it did not fully answer the question with regard to the adequacy of existing research. See response: Click here

Nevertheless on the 18th December 2012 NSW Health (South Western Sydney Local District Health) put an early submission in to the Planning Assessment Commission on the Camden Gas Project Stage 3 slamming AGL for not consulting with NSW Health and failing to provide an Environmental Health Risk Assessment.

Sydney Morning Herald, 18th January 2013:Full CSG health check 'essential'

Read the SWSLHD submission: Click here
  • Read what Doctors for the Environment say about health issues from CSG mining:
David Shearman, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Adelaide in the Conversation, 28th November 2012:Dealing with the health risks of unconventional gas
Viewpoint Magazine, Issue 8, February 2012: pp 26-31: Coal Seam Gas: future bonanza or toxic legacy
  • Read about health impacts in the USA associated with shale mining (which has similar problems to coal seam gas mining):
Independent Science News, 12th November 2012: Risks and Responsibility: Farming, Food and Unconventional Gas Drilling
 
(4) Read about the difficulties of managing coal seam gas mining and its risks:
Professor Alan Randall, Agriculture and Resource Economics, Sydney University, (The Conversation, 30th March 2012):  Going slow on CSG makes economic sense
(5) Read about CSG mining and its contribution to global warming.
It is generally agreed that to reduce global warming we need to move to renewable sources of energy (wind, solar etc.) as soon as practicable. Natural gas is a fossil fuel like coal (not a 'renewable' as sometimes implied in advertising by AGL). However the gas mining industry claims that, since it is cleaner than coal, it has a role as a transitional fuel in moving from coal to renewable sources of energy.

The reason that this has become so controversial in recent years is because there are two types of natural gas mining: conventional gas mining has been the traditional source, but 
over the last ten years technological advances have meant that vast stores of unconventional reserves (mainly shale gas and coal seam gas) can now be exploited. This has led to a gas bonanza. Unfortunately unconventional sources have serious environmental concerns, particularly due to the controversial use of fracking, the de-watering of the coal seam (extracting large amounts of groundwater causing unpredictable impacts on the on the overlying geology) and the need to access land used for other purposes. (Note:Impacts on water, soil etc are dealt with elsewhere. In this section we deal only with coal seam gas mining's contribution to global warming.)

Is gas cleaner than coal?

The CSG industry, in confusing the two types of natural gas, claims that gas is "up to 70% cleaner than coal". When it comes to unconventional sources, this is disputed. This is because the claim is normally stated as "gas burns cleaner than coal". However this ignores the contribution to global warming from unburned methane, which is a 24 - 72 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) (e.g.from burning coal) depending on the timeframe in which it is measured (100 years vs 20 years). This means that escaping methane ("fugitive emissions") from the production process (venting, leaks from wells and pipelines, &/or ruptures due to fracking etc.) can dramatically change the advantage of switching from coal to gas. Fugitive emissions are estimated to be more common in unconventional gas mining (shale, coal seam gas etc) than conventional gas mining, but occur in coal mining as well.


A recent review of available literature by the Australian Federal Department of Climate Change & Energy Efficiency suggests that within the unconventional gas mining industry, Australian coal seam gas mining may produce lower emissions than shale mining in  the USA primarily due to geological differences and less use of fracking. However  it states that this is yet to be properly measured in Australia. Note also that from information provided to the NSW Upper House Inquiry it appears that far more fracking has occurred in the Camden Gas Project than in production fields in Queensland (85% versus 10-40%), though AGL has claimed that the intensity per well is lower than for shale gas mining in the USA.

In other words we do not really yet know enough about coal seam gas mining's methane emissions in Australia to support its role as a transitional fuel, nor do we have independent assessment of emissions from the Camden Gas Project.

A further concern is that since gas is only a transitional fuel between coal and renewable energy sources, the current 'gas rush' is drawing investment away from renewables, taking us further away from our aim of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
  • Media:
Sydney Morning Herald, 21st September 2012:Department issues CSG emissions warning
ABC News, 14th November 2012: Research questions green credentials of CSG
Radio National, Background Briefing, 9th December 2012: The Missing Emissions
 
  • Other reading
The Climate Institute, 12th September 2012: Coal Seam Gas Emissions
Dept of Climate Change & Energy Efficiency: Estimating greenhouse gas emissions
The Conversation, 9th November 2012: Energy White Paper plans to burn, burn it all
The Conversation 13th November 2012: A lot of hot air in the coal to gas transition
 
(6) Read about what can go wrong. There are warning bells ringing in Queensland where coal seam gas mining is far more advanced than in NSW:
In Tara in Southern Queensland academic research has found methane levels 3.5 times higher in the coal seam gas fields than expected and higher than elsewhere in the world including in the largest gas fields in Siberia, according to the researchers from Southern Cross University.
  • Read:
Sydney Morning Herald, 14th November 2012: Methane leaking from CSG field
The Australian 15th November 2012: NSW urged to halt CSG after Queensland leak


This follows accidents near Dalby in Queensland, where recently a methane fire down a hole in a coal seam gas field was burning out of control...and last year a coal seam gas well blew out while it was being brought into production, spewing methane and waste water 90 metres into the air for 24 hours until it was brought under control. The landowner claimed it was the fourth incident on his property in almost as many years.

News.com.au, 20th August 2012: Coal gas stream blaze still alight
Brisbane Times, 20th August 2012: Dalby gas fire not CSG related
Courier Mail, 23rd May 2011: Arrow Energy caps coal seam gas well blow out

(7) The Camden Gas Project is the only commercially producing coal seam gas field in NSW. It already operates under strict conditions of consent including an Environmental Protection Licence (EPL No. 12003). Yet there have been breaches of this licence in every year since it was issued in 2004. This demonstrates to us that it doesn't matter how much regulation is placed on this industry, the problem is whether the government can ever ensure compliance.

Read about AGL's past performance on the Camden Gas Project to see why we are concerned:
 
  • In August 2012 AGL admitted it had not been conducting continuous air monitoring at the Rosalind Park Gas Treatment Plant at Menangle (near Campbelltown) since 2009, in breach of its Environmental Protection licence and of its Planning Consent for the Camden Gas Project Stage 2. AGL shrugged it off as a 'technical' breach. The Environmental Protection Authority is investigating the issue with a report due in November:
Channel 7 News, 22nd August 2012: AGL gas emission checks fails
Macarthur Advertiser, 22nd August 2012:AGL gas emission checks fail


Watch this space for an update by early December.
  • In August 2012 AGL started drilling a new well at Tabcorp's Menangle Park Paceway near the Nepean River with no community consultation (Camden Gas Project Stage 2) and despite objections from Campbelltown City Council. (Note: News reporter Damien Smith mistakenly suggests at the end of the news item that AGL is exploring for gas when it was in fact drilling a production well.)
Channel 7 News, 22nd August 2012: Locals 'not told of new csg well'
Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd August 2012: AGL starts work on Sydney CSG well
Macarthur Advertiser, 22 August 2012: Gas well described as a breach of trust
Macarthur Chronicle, 28th August 2012: Menangle Park residents want answers
Macarthur Chronicle, 28th August 2012: AGL response on Menangle Park debate
Sydney Morning Herald 12th September 2012: Floodgates have opened
  • In August 2011, Channel 7 News revealed secret government documents showing AGL had pumped 30% more acid rain-causing chemicals into the air than permitted by its Environmental Protection Licence at the Rosalind Park Gas Treatment Plant, Menangle (near Campbelltown) for three years running. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) subsequently changed its conditions to allow AGL to comply, causing community concern that it cannot rely on any future claims by AGL of 'minimal environmental impact' in its coal seam gas applications.
Channel 7 News, 29th August 2011: Acid Rain Chemicals
  • In August 2011, Channel 10 News revealed how new home buyers were not told about AGL's coal seam gas activities near a residential housing estate being built at Spring Farm near Campbelltown. In March 2012, Channel 7 News ran a news story revealing similar plans by AGL for new housing estates along Camden Valley Way at Gregory Hills, El Caballo Blanco, Gledswood and East Side Lands at Gledswood Hills (ECBG Land).
 
While the Channel 10 News story correctly stated that AGL was drilling within 200 metres of housing, a subsequent investigation showed that NSW Government policy permits houses to be built as close as 20 metres to existing gas wells after  drilling is completed.

2011
(Note the news reader mistakenly says these wells are 'exploration wells' when in fact they are 'production wells'.)

Channel 10 News, 29th August 2011, Channel 10 News Report Spring Farm
Sydney Morning Herald 30th August 2011: Buyers not told of proposal to drill
2012

Channel 7 News, 12th March 2012: Homes to be built next to gas wells
  • In August 2011, Channel 7 News ran a story showing how religious communities were being expected to accept coal seam gas wells and pipelines on their land against their will. AGL announced that it had responded to community complaints in its revised project plan for Stage 3 (Northern Expansion), released on the 6th November 2012. 
However AGL is not telling the whole truth. While it has removed the cluster of wells from land owned by the Serbian Orthodox Diocese, AGL now intends to track through land adjoining the Carmelite Friars and will place a cluster of 6 wells on the Carmelite Friars' boundary across from their Retreat Centre, threatening waterways and a dam on the Friar's land and the operation of the Retreat Centre. AGL still intends to put three clusters of wells (a total of 18 wells), pipelines and access roads on land owned by the Marist Brothers, including land intended for residential development. We have yet to confirm how the Franciscan Friars and Poor Clare Nuns are affected. (Watch this space for an update).

See Channel 7 News item, 1st September 2011: Holy War
ABC Radio AM, 10th December 2011: David vs Goliath as Nuns go against CSG
ABC News, 11th December 2011: Nuns join campaign against CSG mine
Catholic Diocese of Wollongong, 24th December 2011:Protests against Coal Seam
CN Cath News, 7th September 2012: Josephite Sisters oppose increase in CSG
Catholic Religious Australia, November 2012: Updates on Australian religious advocacy on coal seam gas mining
Sydney Catholic News,13th November 2012: Premier putting Coal Seam Gas Revenues ahead of people - Carmelite Friar
(8) Read about the latest report on coal seam gas mining in Australia:
The Conversation 13th November 2012: Coal seam gas: just another land use..
Read the full report:Some ways forward for coal seam gas and natural resource management
ABC North Coast, 8th November 2012, Dr Gavin Mudd, Monash University: Clear science of muddy waters?

(9) Read articles quoted in our leaflet:
National Water Commission, December 2012 (note: an update in June 2012 stated "The principles articulated in the Position Statement remain a robust framework for the implementation of regulatory arrangements for managing the water impacts of CSG development.": NWC Position Statement

National Toxics Network, September 2011: Hydraulic Fracturing in Coal Seam Gas Mining
[Note: More will be added to this section as it becomes available. Let us know if you think there are other articles that would be helpful by emailing us on info@scenichills.org.au ]

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Latest on housing development proposals in the Scenic Hills!

NSW Government fast tracks East Leppington development with insufficient consultation...taking away more of the Scenic Hills Environmental Protection Area, threatening what remains and losing an opportunity to create a wildlife corridor linking the Hills with the Western Sydney Parklands.The proposed development will extend from St Andrews Road, run along the back of St James and St Davids Roads properties in Varroville, along the boundary with the former Sweeney's Scenic Riding Ranch and up to Denham Court Road. Both the Upper Canal (carrying Sydney's back up water supply), the Eastern Gas Pipeline and the gas Distribution Network cut through the proposed development. This development area also forms part of the surface project area for AGL's Stage 3 of the Camden Gas Project. Given the unknown safety of coal seam gas mining, we believe that this land is therefore unsuitable for development as residential living.

See links to related documents:

(a) Government brochure outlining plans (tip: after opening the document, click on View and then rotate view clockwise to see the map more clearly): Click here.

(b) Public and Agency submissions to the NSW Department of Planning (scroll to the bottom of the site to see submissions from the Scenic Hills Association, Campbelltown City Council & other councils): Click here.

(c) Map of Western Sydney Parklands: Click here.

(d) Map of AGL's Camden Gas Project Stage 3 (See third map shown as Figure 3): Click here.

 

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Other Past & Present Threats

(1) South West Business Park. In 2007 land developer the Cornish Group bought an interest in approximately 800 acres of the historic 1810 Varro Ville estate of Dr. Robert Townson - and started proceedings to have the area re-zoned for industrial purposes creating an outcry in the community. See below for the full story.

(2) The VarrovilleTruck Rest Area. In 2009 the community uncovered a plan by the RTA to build a major truck rest area of 77 bays on archaeologically sensitive land in the Scenic Hills Protection zone as part of the F5 Freeway upgrade. See below for the full story.

(3) History of AGL's Northern Expansion of the Camden Gas Project. In 2010 AGL put on Public Exhibition plans to mine for coal seam gas in the South West Sydney Metropolitan Area - with its gas wells, gas lines and other infrastructure located in the Scenic Hills Protection zone and on land designated for new residential estates in Camden. The fight to stop this is ongoing.

(4) NSW Liberal Government Breaks Pre-election Promise to give Planning back to Local Communities. Less than 10 months into office, the O'Farrell Government has announced it will override local councils and accept applications from land developers, reminiscent of the disgraced Part 3A legislative process it abolished in 2011. This is ongoing.

         
See below for more details of points 1- 4....

______________________________________________________________

1. The South West Business Park, 2007-2011

In May 2007 a land developer, the Cornish Group, purchased a large landholding in the Scenic Hills and submitted a concept plan to Campbelltown City Council that would ultimately have required the rezoning of more than 800 acres of scenic protection land for commercial/ industrial purposes – including the adjoining Scenic Hills Riding Ranch. The 800 acres was nearly all of the remaining landholding of the original 1000-acre 1810 Varro Ville estate of Dr Robert Townson (1762- 1827) - excluding the Varro Ville house lot: it had been controversially reduced to 8 acres in the middle of the property in 1973 separating it from its agricultural and estate features including from its outbuildings and was the only bit listed on the State Heritage Register.

As the whole 1000-acre estate had featured in a NSW Heritage Council report on estates and landscapes of exceptional significance on the Cumberland Plain[1], the NSW Heritage Office had for some time signalled its intention to increase the Varro Ville heritage listing beyond the house lot to control development over the surrounding land and estate buildings. On being notified of the pending land sale in May 2007, the Office wrote to both Campbelltown Council and the vendor’s listing agent informing them of the Office’s views and seeking their cooperation. Council also received representations from the Australian Garden History Society and the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.

At the same time, a group of residents in Campbelltown, Varroville and St Andrews came together to form the Scenic Hills Action Group (forerunner of SHA) to oppose the proposal . A petition of 1000 names was taken up at the Fishers Ghost Festival 2007, with many signatories concerned at the loss of equestrian facilities in the Scenic Hills. 

At its meeting of the 13th November 2007, Campbelltown City Council considered a report from its Planning & Environment Division on the Cornish Group’s concept plan. The report concluded that the proposed development not only conflicted with the strategic planning role of the Scenic Hills and its heritage[2], but could compromise Council’s plans to revitalise Campbelltown‘s CBD as a Regional City Centre. It also noted potential conflicts with the Growth Centres Commission’s plans for the adjoining South West Growth Centre. The Business Park concept was rejected by Council, which reaffirmed its intention to preserve the Scenic Hills for future generations to enjoy.

Over the next three years rumours abounded that the NSW Government would override Council and determine the project under its controversial Part 3A legislation. In May 2011, following the abolition of this legislation by the new NSW Coalition government and a move to greater transparency, all pending Part 3A applications were listed on the Department’s website. The South West Business Park was listed as “Manufacturing and Storage” and marked “Not Declared”. The NSW Department of Planning later clarified this as being ‘the end of the matter’ as far as the Department was concerned.

Read Council report and decision in Item 2.7 on pp.102-127 of: Council Minutes 13/11/07

Macarthur Advertiser 2/4/08: Hills talks worry defenders

See NSW Major Projects: South West Business Park

 

[1] Colleen Morris and Geoffrey Britton, ‘Colonial Landscapes of the Cumberland Plain and Camden, NSW: A Survey of selected pre-1860 Cultural Landscapes from Wollondilly to Hawkesbury LGA’, National Trust, 2000

[2] The State Planning Authority of NSW in the 1973 New Cities of Campbelltown, Camden and Appin Structure Plan had designated that the Scenic Hills would play an important strategic role as a scenic backdrop separating the new cities noting that it also had lower development potential due to geological instability.

 

 



2. The Varroville Truck Stop, 2009-2010

In July 2009 residents uncovered a proposal by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) to put a Major Truck Rest Area of 45 bays on land adjoining the F5 Freeway corridor as part of the F5 upgrade. The local community had not been consulted on the matter and only found out when RTA surveyors were seen working in the area. The chosen site extended into the Scenic Hills Environmental Protection zone on land owned by the NSW Department of Planning and had many planning conflicts:
  1. The land had once been part of the historic Varro Ville estate and was considered archaeologically important for both its aboriginal and colonial history.
  2. It came at the end of a downhill gradient that could cause truck drivers to compression brake on approach, exacerbating night noise from the freeway in a residential area (St Andrews, Raby and Varro Ville).
  3. Concerns were raised about its proximity to schools (and possible issues with drugs and prostitution).
  4. Its siting between the proposed Raby Road F5 on-ramp and Denham Court off-ramp, meant that trucks would be pulling in and out of local traffic entering and leaving the F5 at 110 kph, a potentially dangerous mix on the already accident prone F5 during peak hour.
  5. The proposed site adjoined the same land within the Scenic Hills Environmental Protection zone that Councillors had rejected for a Business Park in 2007 raising concerns from former Scenic Hills Action Group members about the domino effect that the RTA proposal could have on the adjoining land.
Members of the Action Group appealed to Councillors to reject a recommendation from Council staff to ‘rubber stamp’ the proposal giving the community time to present its case. A month later Councillors withdrew their support for the truck stop and sought the assistance of local MPs. In October 2009 the then NSW Minister for Transport, the Hon. David Campbell told local MPs the truck stop would not go ahead. Then in December he signed off on the project without any feasibility study or business case having been presented to the public
 

What followed was an 18 month battle with the RTA /NSW Government for a more transparent process so that a proper assessment could be made. In response the RTA reduced the size of the truck rest area to 30 spaces confined within the F5 corridor and gave assurances that the truck stop would never be expanded beyond that.  The newly formed Scenic Hills Association (comprising former Action Group members) was unconvinced, suspecting that the truck rest area was not so much a rest area for trucks travelling north but rather part of a queuing system for Port Botany to accommodate the move to 24 hour time slots at the port. Since truck movements were predicted to double by 2020 the rest area would most certainly have been expanded, opening the way for the simultaneous industrialisation of the Hills at Varroville and Denham Court.  SHA continued to raise issues of poor and uncoordinated planning, lack of transparency and potential abuse of RTA powers.

On the 11th November 2010, Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann lodged a Notice of Motion on behalf of the community requiring the RTA to produce a list of documents within 21 days, including all communication between the RTA, Council, NSW Department of Planning, and other interested parties. A week later the new Minister for Roads announced that the truck rest area would not go ahead.

Government papers later revealed that the RTA had planned for an expanded truck rest area of 77 spaces extending onto land owned by the NSW Department of Planning in the Environmental Protection zone.

After the Coalition Party took government in March 2011 the RTA was disbanded and absorbed into an expanded transport department.

Note: SHA fully respects the need for an adequate balance of work and rest for drivers and continues to support road safety for all. It was the inappropriateness of the site that we were contesting along with concerns about the process and the potential for abuse of RTA powers overriding local planning controls

 

Reading:

The RTA eventually produced a report and community update confirming its selection of Varro Ville (after the fact) and giving the community less than 3 weeks to respond. SHA claimed both documents misquoted and/or misused road research reports and were flawed:

Read a summary of the RTA case in:  RTA community Update 2nd April 2010

 

 

Selected Media:

Macarthur Chronicle 27th July 2009: Residents fear truck bay will be bad for Varroville area

Macarthur Chronicle 7th September 2009: Residents want Scenic Hills protected from truck bay

Macarthur Advertiser 9th September 2009: Don't stop trucks in our hills

Macarthur Advertiser 21st October 2009: Scenic Hills saved from truck stop

Parliamentary Speech by Dr. Andrew McDonald MP Macquarie Fields, 29th October 2009: Varrovile M5 Truck Stop Proposal

Macarthur Chronicle 19th January 2010: Minister puts Varroville and Pheasants Nest back

Macarthur Chronicle 15th March 2010: Varroville listed by RTA as best site

Macarthur Advertiser 9th April 2010: I tried, says frustrated MP

SMH 11th May 2010: Truck stops here: monks haven to be hit by RTA plan

Macarthur Advertiser 2nd June 2010: Call for moratorium on truck stop

Macarthur Advertiser 4th August 2010: Council to reject water pipe for truck stop

Macarthur Chronicle 9th August 2010: Varroville truck stop fight continues

Macarthur Advertiser 1st September 2010: Developer hits back at Varrovile truck stop critics

Macarthur Advertiser 24th November 2010: Varroville truck stop plans overturned

Listen to 2UE Interview with Roads Minister Duncan Gay, 18th July 2011: RTA gone but will it fix our roads

 


 
AGL's Coal Seam Gas mining in Campbelltown's Scenic Hills and Camden's new residential estates (previously scenic zoning): Camden Gas Project Stage 3, Northern Expansion

Introduction & Summary

The Camden Gas Project (CGP) has been producing coal seam gas in the Macarthur Region of NSW (Wollondilly, Camden & Campbelltown local government areas) on the south west outskirts of Sydney for ten years
. It was originally owned and operated by Sydney Gas Limited, later in partnership with AGL Energy Limited (AGL). In 2009 AGL acquired Sydney Gas so that AGL became wholly responsible for its operations.

In 2009 AGL applied to the NSW Government under the controversial Part 3A legislation to expand the Camden Gas Project northwards into the Scenic Hills and suburbs of Campbelltown and Camden (within the Sydney Metropolitan Area). Following concerns raised by government agencies, councils and the public, the NSW Minister for Planning announced that AGL could not build a gas treatment plant in the Hills as part of the project.

AGL had been quoted in the media as saying it could not proceed without the plant. Nevertheless it resubmitted its application, and the Environmental Assessment for the modified Stage 3 proposal went on Public Exhibition on the 26th October 2010 with no explanation from AGL about how it intended to get its gas back under pressure to its existing Rosalind Park gas treatment plant at Menangle. Submissions from the public closed on the 7th December 2010 but with later submissions being accepted until recently. Twenty eight submissions were made.

Following the change of government in March 2011 and the abolition of the Part 3A legislation, the new NSW Minister for Planning the Hon. Brad Hazzard decreed that, along with other 'controversial' applications, the CGP Stage 3 Northern Expansion would be decided by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) under the transitional arrangements for the staged repeal of Part 3A of the Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (the EP&A Act). This decision left open the right of the community to challenge the PACs decision in the Land & Environment Court (LEC).


Update:

On the 3rd November 2012, the NSW Department of Planning & Infrastructure (DoPI) sent letters to those residents who had made submissions in 2010, announcing that that it was allowing AGL to transfer its application from the old Part 3A legislation to the government's new SSD legislation, and that in addition to asking the PAC to decide the outcome, the Minister had also referred the project to the PAC for a merit review including holding public hearings. The media release from AGL and the DoPI claims that this increases public scrutiny of the decision. This is not true. The request to the PAC to do a merit review with public hearings wipes out the right of the community to challenge the PAC's decision in the Land and Environment Court (LEC). Going to the LEC would have enabled us to cross-examine AGL's experts in a truly independent way.

What now?

The community now has no other option but to participate to the best extent it can by making submissions to the DoPI by the 18th December 2012, and to participate in the public hearings that will be held early next year. The Scenic Hills Association will be putting information up on this site over the coming weeks to help people in making submissions. In the interim, please find below all the preliminary information that we have:

Media Releases (click on highlighted link):

NSW Department of Planning & Infrastructure: DoPI Media Release CGP3 November

AGL Energy Limited: AGL Media Rlease CGP3 November
Scenic Hills Association: SHA Media Release CGP3 November

Information on how to make a submission:

NSW Department of Planning & Infrastructure letter to residents
: DoPI letter to residents & advertisement


Background Information for your submission:

Go to the
Website of the Major Projects, NSW Department of Planning to find:
  • AGL's original Environmental Assessment
  • Previous submissions from the public and government agencies
  • AGL's response to submissions


(3) Camden Gas Project Stage 3

History of the Stage 3 Application & SHA's involvement


The community became aware of AGL's plans to mine for coal seam gas in the Scenic Hills and suburbs of Campbelltown and Camden when a report was presented to Campbelltown Council at its meeting on the 6th April 2010. The project, known as the Camden Gas Project Stage 3 (Northern Expansion) originally included a gas treatment plant to be located in the Scenic Hills Environmental Protection area near a new school and an open water channel (the Upper Canal) carrying Sydney's back up water supply to Prospect Reservoir. Councillors voted to write to the NSW Department of Planning objecting to the proposal:

See Council Report No. 12 pp.25-30 in: Directors Reports 6/4/10
Read SMH 16th April 2010: Row over 'Texas oilfield' deep in the heart of Scenic Hills


Subsequently Councillors and local State MPs focused on the inappropriateness of the gas treatment plant as part of the project, with the Macarthur (then Labor) MPs claiming that there was no problem with the gas wells. This was reflected in the local media:

Macarthur Chronicle 12th April 2010: Varroville AGL gas project will proceed unless...
Macarthur Advertiser 14th April 2010: Battle to save protected Scenic Hills
Macarthur Chronicle 19th April 2010: Team Macarthur fumes over gas plan
Macarthur Advertiser 21st April 2010: Gas plant battle begins
Macarthur Advertiser 28th April 2010: Students fired up over gas plant plan

SHA did not accept that the project should go ahead at all and began to suspect that the gas treatment plant might be an ambit claim to get the rest of the project through. We sought advice from local landowners in prior stages of the Camden Gas Project (Stages 1 & 2) who pointed to land use conflicts associated with the connecting infrastructure, and friction with Sydney Gas over access. One landowner complained about increased salinity in a previously fresh watercourse that might be attributable to coal seam gas mining but had no proof, and claimed that complaints to the NSW Department of Primary Industry had been ignored. We started raising issues of CSG infrastructure and possibility of accidents with local politicians and in online commentary in the local press.
Liberal candidates for the Macarthur electorates also joined the chorus of protest against the whole project.

Macarthur Advertiser 5th May 2010: David versus Goliath in scenic hills battle
Macarthur Advertiser 12th May 2010: More AGL gas wells for Campbelltown?
Macarthur Advertiser 19th May 2010: Advertiser has exclusive gas plant tour


In association with the Macarthur Chronicle, SHA took up a Facebook petition of 1000 names opposing the whole project. The petition was attached to SHA's formal submission to the NSW Department of Planning on the Northern Expansion (see below).

Read petition & community feedback (note: some 'unpublishable' entries were removed): Petition against AGL's Stage 3 & RTA Truck Stop


On the 5th July the NSW Minister for Planning Tony Kelly issued a press release saying that AGL had been asked to remove the gas treatment plant from its proposal, but it could still apply for the rest of the project under Part 3A : NSW Dept of Planning Media Release

SHA remained skeptical...as did local Liberal candidates.

Macarthur Chronicle 2nd July 2010: Varroville gas plant scrapped
Macarthur Advertiser 7th July 2010: AGL dumps gas plant plan for Varroville
Macarthur Advertiser 14th July 2010: AGL gas leak in scenic hills worries community

On the
26th October 2010, the Environmental Assessment for Stage 3 went on Public Exhibition with submissions closing 7th December 2010.

Macarthur Chronicle 1st November 2010: AGL reveals new coal seam gas plan


(Note: in the above article AGL claimed that only 10% of AGL's existing wells had been fracced. SHA has since shown that it is actually 85% of existing wells.)

SHA sought an extension to the deadline in order to better research the project. SHA met twice with AGL, including with AGL's newly appointed hydrogeologist. AGL invited SHA to send a representative to the Camden Gas Project Community Consultative Committee (CCC) as a "guest".  SHA representative Jacqui Kirkby attended the CCC of the 26th November 2010 and two subsequent meetings before being officially confirmed as a member by the NSW Department of Planning on the 3rd August 2011.

SHA also sought advice and information from other groups in NSW and Queensland. On the 6th November SHA was invited to a meeting in Broke in the Hunter Valley that founded the original LocktheGate Alliance (LTGA). SHA remained active in LTGA until there was a change of structure. See our News & Events page.

SHA finally made its submission to the NSW Department of Planning on the 24th January
2011 (updated 4th February 2012), opposing the project application in its entirety, and calling for a general moratorium on coal seam gas mining to allow time for more research and better legislation and monitoring.

At its meeting on the 14th December 2010, Campbelltown City Council voted to oppose the project application. Read Council's report at Item 2.2, page 12 in: Campbelltown Council Minutes 14/12/10

At its meeting on the 14th December 2010, Camden Council voted to support the project subject to consultation with AGL on construction noise and on well locations given that these would be in future residential estates. Read Council's report at item 0RD05, page 68 in: Camden Council Minutes 14/12/10


As at September 2012, neither Council had changed its position.

As at September 2012 , AGL had not formally responded to the public submissions, and is apparently waiting on the renewal of its Petroleum Exploration Licence (No.2). It is also waiting to see whether the Government will allow the transfer of the Camden Gas Project Stage 3 from the former Part 3A legislation to the NSW Government's new State Significant Development legislation.
(See SHA's position on Coal Seam Gas Mining on our About Us page.)

Postscript:

Following the NSW elections in March 2011 three of the four Macarthur electorates were won by Liberal candidates.

At a Public Forum held in St Andrews on the 25th June 2011, Dr Macdonald, MP for Macquarie Fields and NSW Shadow Minister for Health (the only Macarthur Labor MP to hold his seat) admitted that he had previously supported coal seam gas mining for the area but had since changed his mind (see our News & Events page).


On the 10th November 2011 the NSW Labor Party threw its support behind community calls for a moratorium until the impacts of coal seam gas mining on water resources are fully understood.

On the 11th September 2012 the NSW Coalition government released its Strategic Regional Land Use Policy, which was widely rejected across NSW. Details are still to be finalised, including the renewal of Petroleum Exploration Licenses to explore for CSG mining. The Government has not yet responded to the findings of the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas - the General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5 which came out on May 1 this year (2012). It is due to respond by November 2012. In short the NSW Government appears to making a dog's breakfast of the management and monitoring of this industry.
___________________________________

Read a summary of our submission to the Department of Planning (Camden Gas Project Stage 3) in the following (updated) leaflet: CGP Stage 3 Leaflet April 2012

Read our full submission on the website of the Major Projects (NSW Department of Planning)
in "Submissions - Special Interest Groups": Camden Gas Project Stage 3

Read SHA's Position on Coal Seam Gas on our About Us page.
 

 


 

4. O’Farrell Government Review of Developer-nominated Housing sites, 29th November 2011– ongoing

Despite pre-election promises by the Coalition to give planning back to local communities and to focus development on the Growth Centres and public transport, the O’Farrell government has declared that the Growth Centres have failed and has by-passed Councils once again by inviting landowners to nominate housing sites directly to the Government. The process appears to go even further than the discredited Part 3A by appointing a committee within the Premier’s Department to decide the outcome.  This decision has been widely criticised on grounds of poor, ad-hoc and uncoordinated planning as well as the inappropriate influence of developers.

Four sites have been nominated in the Campbelltown local government area including two in the Scenic Hills. SHA’s concerns are not only with the Scenic Hills but also with the loss of greenspace generally in the Campbelltown area and expansion of traffic on the newly widened F5 from developments that extend south through Campbelltown to, and including Wollondilly.

 

Read More at NSW Department of Planning website: Review of Potential Housing Sites

 

State Media:

SMH 30/1/12: Rezoning blitz in push for housing

Watch ABC 7.30 Report: NSW Planning Minister explains

 

Local Media:

Macarthur Advertiser 1/2/12: Door opened for housing estates in the Scenic Hills
Macarthur Advertiser 1/2/12:Hills are alive with sound of betrayal
Macarthur Chronicle 7/2/12: Campbelltown Scenic Hills housing plans rejected
Macarthur Advertiser 8/2/12: Sprawl in the hills no gift for our kids
Macarthur Advertiser 8/2/12: MPs urged to protect the scenic hills
Macarthur Advertiser 18/4/12: Proposals to build housing in Campbelltown's protected Scenic Hills


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