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EVENTS

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7 pm Wednesday 5th October 2016

Macarthur Heritage Nature Talk

Wildlife ecologist Peter Ridgeway will speak on our disappearing Cumberland Plain Woodland

Where: Campbelltown Arts Centre

When: 7pm, Wednesday 5th October 2016

Entry: Donation of gold coin 

For more info: Click Here



SIGNS

Get a sign for your gate, fence, workplace: Free to Friends of the Scenic Hills Association; $10 to others.
 

P1020210
















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FILMS WORTH SEEING

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'SPOTLIGHT'

'The Boston Catholic Archdiocese worked the system to protect their own priests from scrutiny. Every corner of power was infiltrated to protect the Church - and it's a TRUE STORY

Winner of the Best Picture
(The Oscars 2016)

Available on DVD

Official trailer:Spotlight - 'the system'
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INTERESTING ARTICLES

[WATCH THIS SPACE]

 

News in 2016

(Latest news presented first)
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19th September 2016

Thugs for the cemetery rip 'No $emetery' and 'No CSG' signs from Varro Ville Homestead fence and gate

Following the government announcement on Monday 12th September that land surrounding Varro Ville Homestead in the Scenic Hills would be rezoned for a massive cemetery, 'No $emetery' and 'No CSG' signs were immediately torn from the gate of Varro Ville Homestead, leaving only the eyelets hanging on their chains. A 'No CSG' sign was also removed. This is the way it goes:
  • Charm with half truths and spin...but when that doesn't work...
  • Bullying & intimidation with lies...and when that doesn't work...
  • Violence including vandalism and theft...
  • ....?

This tells you everything you need to know about this cemetery proposal and its supporters. The community should not be intimidated by this type of thuggery. Contact us about putting a sign on your gate in support (see opposite column).

Macarthur Advertiser 16th September 2016: At war with the Catholic Church

hoMacck as emetery

Shock as cemetery approval kept secret until after Council elections
Shock as cemetery approval kept secret until after Council elections
Shock as cemetery approval kept secret until after Council elections
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12th September 2016
(updated on the 18th September in orange)

Shock as cemetery approval kept secret until after Council elections

The Scenic Hills Association is questioning the influence of the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese and the many breaches of proper process associated with the rezoning of land last Friday
for a massive 136,000 grave cemetery in the Scenic Hills Environmental Protection Area at Varroville near Campbelltown.

Legitimacy of the JRPP

Sydney West Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) met in secrecy on Friday to rush through the 'spot' rezoning of environmental protection land in the Scenic Hills surrounding a privately owned state heritage house. The decision was made with the support of two
outgoing Campbelltown councillors, just ONE day before they would have to step down from the JRPP. The two councillors (Lake and Hawker)
were appointed as Campbelltown's representatives in 2012 and had already voted with the JRPP in a Pre Gateway Review to progress the cemetery proposal against the views of the overwhelming majority of their own councillors. At the final council meeting in August councillors were told they had no capacity to remove them.

The cemetery decision was kept secret from the community until after the Council election on Saturday.

The election of September 10 resulted in power shifting from a 'Liberal/Independent' voting bloc to Labor/Greens control. Neither councillor would have been reappointed to the JRPP. One had not been endorsed by his own party (Liberal) to stand again.

NSW Heritage Council blindsided

The decision was also rushed through before the NSW Heritage Council could decide the State Heritage Significance of the land and its impact on privately owned Varro Ville Homestead marooned in the middle of the cemetery. A report was presented to the NSW Heritage Council's meeting on September 7 where a decision was made to progress the investigation into all the land intended for the cemetery. Two days later the JRPP approved the rezoning.

JRPP ignored key information (updated 18th September 2016)

The JRPP ignored information from the Scenic Hills Association that Cemeteries & Crematoria NSW (the new statutory authority set up to oversee the industry), along with the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT), were holding back information showing that:
  • There was NO shortage of burial space in Sydney - burial space was being underestimated by 50+ years because newly 'approved' cemeteries and established trends towards cremation were being excluded from the data;
  • A review of suitable cemetery sites in Western Sydney by the CMCT showed the Varroville site was UNSUITABLE for a cemetery, and the CMCT had identified five (5) other more suitable sites.
The information was sourced under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPAA), but the government would not release the information until after the proposal's Public Exhibition was closed.

Sydney Catholic Archdiocese influence questioned

The CMCT is overseen by the Catholic Cemeteries Board, an entity of the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese. After the NSW Heritage Council formally objected to the cemetery in 2013, the Heritage Minister (Rob Stokes) appointed the Archdiocese's heritage representative, Stephen Davies, to the NSW Heritage Council and then elevated him in January this year to its Chair.

According to NSW Heritage Council protocols Davies cannot participate in any Heritage Council deliberations on state listed Varro Ville Homestead due to a conflict of interest. However this did not stop him coming to the JRPP's public hearing into the cemetery on August 25 on behalf of the CMCT. In its summary report to the hearing, the Department of Planning dismissed a heritage assessment made on behalf of the owners of Varro Ville Homestead, claiming that the CMCT''s heritage consultant had  'pre-eminence' over the owners' consultants. Though the Homestead owners’ consultants had international standing, Davies CV was tabled in support of the Department’s claim showing he was Chair of the NSW Heritage Council. The Chair then argued against his own heritage council's submission to the astonishment of Campbelltown MPs, councillors and the community.

This is just the tip of the iceberg...

The decision by the JRPP: JRPP decision-Varroville Planning Proposal

Reading:

Macarthur Chronicle 12th September 2016:
JRPP approves cemetery development

Macarthur Chronicle 12th September 2016: Cemetery development welcomed by developer


Read our commentary at the end of this article:


Macarthur Advertiser 13th September 2016: Panel defends decision


IF YOU WANT TO SEE HOW 'THE SYSTEM' WORKS, WE RECOMMEND WATCHING THE FILM IN THE LEFT HAND COLUMN OF THIS PAGE.
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6th September
2016


Outrage over 'lock out' at cemetery public hearing.

The Scenic Hills Association (SHA) has been swamped with complaints about Campbelltown City Council's management of the public hearing into the Varroville cemetery, fuelling public cynicism about the process. The SHA has lodged a formal complaint on the community's behalf.

South West Voice 5th September 2016:
Formal complaint lodged


Macarthur Advertiser 6th September 2016: Outraged opposers kept out of room

Feedback to the SHA:

'it was a farce', 'this matter is as bad as it can possibly get...timely for a letter request to ICAC', 'shambles', 'what next do they fill the hills with...more cemeteries, churches, mosques etc...''why was such an important meeting not held at the much larger Civic centre'...'Bryan Doyle...a proponent for the proposal, got summoned to the front of the queue!'...'no public scrutiny of the answers given by those who spoke on behalf of the proponent reflects poorly on the JRPP and is a poor outcome for the Campbelltown community as a whole.'

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26rd August 2016
(updated 29th August)

Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) 'pikes out' on Scenic Hills cemetery decision at Public Hearing

At a packed meeting of the Sydney West JRPP last night, where a final decision on the Varroville cemetery proposal (Macarthur Memorial Park) was due to be made, the JRPP left without making a decision saying it needed to further consider the matter.

Eighteen (18) local residents - including a farmer, heritage expert, retired judge, Carmelite friars (priests),
the owners of Varro Ville Homestead, Labor councillors (Brticevic & Oates) and Labor MP for Macquarie Fields (Anoulack Chanthivong) - spoke passionately against the cemetery, claiming it would destroy the rural heritage of  the Scenic Hills and the 1810 Varro Ville estate of Dr Robert Townson & Charles Sturt, and set in motion the future development of the rest of the Hills. Speakers came from Varroville, Leumeah, St Andrews, Blairmount, Bow Bowing, Kearns and Denham Court - with supporters from across the Campbelltown area including the outer suburbs of Wedderburn and Kentlyn.

Only two (2) local community members spoke in favour of the cemetery, both of whom were land owner/speculators with land in the Scenic Hills - confirming community fears that the cemetery would pave the way to full-on development of the Hills.

A 125-name petition gathered by the Campbelltown Catholic Club on behalf of the CMCT was lampooned by the Scenic Hills Association as 'not exactly evidence of overwhelming community support' when compared with other community campaigns such as Windsor Bridge (30,000), a coal mine protest at Berrima (16,000+), anti-lock out laws (53,000) and the reams of 10,000+ name petitions on the NSW Parliamentary record. The vast majority of the CMCT petitioners were from outside the Campbelltown area or working for the funeral industry.

Emotions ran high as the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT) packed out the Council chamber with 'suits' -
mostly from the funeral industry and Church officialdom - leaving no room for the community. Former MP Bryan Doyle had a seat reserved with the CMCT, while the owners of Varro Ville Homestead - whose home is in the middle of the cemetery land - could not get into the main chamber. Most of the Scenic Hills supporters, including registered speakers against the cemetery, had to listen to the proceedings through a faint speaker in the lobby until called. Around 40+ people gathered downstairs - among them were the elderly and disabled. Many had to leave after the sound system collapsed. The vision of a community being crushed and shut out by a greedy, commercial developer - of the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese no less - told the real story.

Two councillors, Cr Paul Lake ('Community First' Party) and Cr Paul Hawker (Liberal, retiring at the next elections) sat as Council's representatives on the JRPP despite protests from the community and fellow councillors that they should stand down because Council was in 'caretaker mode' prior to council elections on September 10, and neither could be held accountable unless re-elected. Both councillors previously voted with government appointees on the JRPP at a PreGateway Review to overturn Campbelltown Council's decision to reject the cemetery - causing outrage on social media. They asked few questions on Thursday leaving that mostly to the government appointees.

After four hours of speeches and questioning, the JRPP announced that it would defer the decision, giving no indication of when it would make it.
MP Chanthivong asked how people would be notified and whether it would reveal how the panelists voted. The JRPP said it would email those who had lodged submissions and post the decision on its website; if the decision was not unanimous it would state how panelists voted.

Given the number of objectors, the decision should not have been rushed on the night, but we wonder whether the deferral was more about the risk of announcing an unpopular decision when emotions were running so high.

Macarthur Advertiser 25th August 2016: No decision on Scenic Hills

Macarthur Chronicle 25th August 2016: The fate of the Scenic Hills remains unknown

Macarthur Advertiser 29th August 2016: Residents, politicians unsure about deferral
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23rd August 2016


Scenic Hills Association calls for support at Public Hearing

 
Dear Friends

The public hearing and decision on the Varroville cemetery is proceeding this Thursday at 5pm, at the Campbelltown Council Civic Centre. We need your support to save our Hills by speaking against the cemetery.
 
Registrations (to speak at the meeting) close TODAY 23rd August 2016 at 4pm. To register you can email: Suzie.Jattan@planning.nsw.gov.au  or phone the JRPP Secretariat on (02) 9228 2063.
 
In summary...
When we were fighting to stop CSG mining from going into our Scenic Hills and under the surrounding suburbs, we worked hard for the community. Now we need your help to preserve our Hills and our heritage from a massive 136,000 grave cemetery, proposed by the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT).
 
If we thought this cemetery would help preserve the Hills we would welcome it. But it won’t, so we don’t! All mainstream NSW heritage organisations, including the NSW Heritage Council (advising the Heritage Minister), the National Trust and the Australian Garden History Society have made submissions saying it is incompatible with preserving our Scenic Hills and state heritage-listed Varro Ville Homestead in the middle of the cemetery land. Campbelltown Council, all local MPS, the Carmelite community of Catholic nuns and friars (whose monasteries are opposite the cemetery land) and the owners of Varro Ville Homestead are ALL against the cemetery.
 
It is prohibited land use in the Environmental Protection area. There is no shortage of burial space locally or in Sydney as a whole – four approved cemeteries of around 170,000 burial spaces in the local catchment area are not being counted in the government’s statistics. Upwards of 65% of people opt for cremation and this is growing. We have to make a stand for our community, our heritage, our Hills and our right to make the decisions for our community.

Scenic Hills Association

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23rd August 2016 (originally posted 17th August, but updated)

Government rushes to make rezoning decision on Varroville cemetery before Council elections - opposed by Campbelltown Council and affected landowners

The Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) - appointed by the Planning Minister Rob Stokes -  is p
ushing ahead to decide the outcome of the Varroville Cemetery planning proposal (Macarthur Memorial Park) before the JRPPs are disbanded and new Councils are elected in September. A public hearing, at which the decision to rezone (or not) will be made, has been scheduled for 5 pm on the 25th August 2016
: see Notice of public hearing


The sudden decision has left state heritage homeowners blindsided again...

The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust is a 'service' of the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese. This is how it works. Having developed its plans in secret, the homeowners now find they have only one buyer for their property - the Catholic Church.  The Church pays no tax, no rates. If the NSW Government approves this plan then the people will know what is driving NSW...

Note: if the video below doesn't work, click on this link: Landowners blindsided

YouTube Video



Macarthur Advertiser 22nd August 2016:
Uphill battle to come to an end

Landowners and residents question ethics of timing


The Scenic Hills Association questions the ethics of the cemetery hearing in late August.
Campbelltown Council is currently in 'caretaker mode' in the count down to the Council elections on September 10. During this time no major decisions are supposed to be taken by Council. The five member JRPP has two councillors on the panel representing Campbelltown and in all good conscience no councillor should be participating in such a crucial decision for this area until the elections are over. At least one of these councillors is stepping down at the next elections and can't even be held accountable. Both councillors controversially voted against their own Council's position on the cemetery by siding with the Minister's appointees on the JRPP to rezone the land for a cemetery at a PreGateway Review in 2014. A Public Exhibition of the proposal was then held, ending March 21 this year. The final decision will now be made at a public hearing on August 25 where affected landowners and residents will have only three minutes each to plead their case to panel members some of whom may no longer have community support.

The community can have NO CONFIDENCE in major decisions being made this way during a transition phase of government.
The intent of caretaker conventions in Australia is to avoid this situation.

Macarthur Chronicle 22nd August 2016: Decision time on future of the Scenic Hills
 
Council asks Minister to defer public hearing and send to new planning panels - falls on deaf ears...

Campbelltown City Council has also questioned the timing of the public hearing
on the Varroville Cemetery and has called on the Minister to defer it, saying the Minister's decision to disband the JRPPs later this year shows he has lost faith in the current process. Minister Rob Stokes has not even bothered to return the call :

Macarthur Advertiser 17th August 2016: Council votes to defer

Macarthur Advertiser 22nd August 2016: MP livid after cemetery decision not deferred
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12th August 2016

Heritage unites to oppose Varroville cemetery plan

NSW heritage organisations have united in their opposition to the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust's 136,000-grave Varroville cemetery plan (Macarthur Memorial Park) saying it should not be approved.

Submissions to the Public Exhibition of the cemetery plans, March 2016:

The NSW Heritage Council (which advises the NSW Heritage Minister) said:

...the proposed use of the land as a cemetery ‘will result in formal lawn graves, mown areas, memorial terraces, increased site car access, car parking, roads, signage, condolence rooms and formal lines of trees which are at odds with the informal rural character of the subject land…...[T]he landscape and the outbuildings surrounding Varroville Homestead is an exceptionally significant part of heritage of the Varroville Homestead… [T]he Planning Proposal for Macarthur Memorial Park is not supported.’ See full submission here: NSW HC submission

The National Trust of NSW (a former owner of Varro Ville Homestead) stated it had listed all the land intended for the cemetery on its heritage register in 1976 and said...

...‘This proposal would seriously degrade the important curtilage, dating from 1810 of the property Varro Ville…and damage a long term proposal, supported by the National Trust, for statutory recognition of the Scenic Hills Environmental Protection Area.’  See full submission here: National Trust (NSW) submission

The Australian Garden History Society (Sydney & Northern NSW) criticised the proposal for failing to adequately assess traffic and parking for the location (‘almost totally reliant on private transport’') and the impact on the landform (requiring 'cut and fill') of the Scenic Hills and on Varro Ville Homestead. It stated that the proposal's Masterplan and its Visual Assessment...

‘fail[ed] to consider the full implications of the infrastructure required for this type of development as viewed from the heritage property [Varro Ville Homestead] and the broader Campbelltown urban area. The planning proposal should not be approved....’ See full submission here: AGHS submission

The owners of Varro Ville Homestead engaged their own heritage consultant, Geoffrey Britton, to review the cemetery. Britton co-authored Campbelltown Council’s Visual Study [1] for the Campbelltown Local Environment Plan 2015, and was engaged by Orwell & Peter Phillips in its curtilage study for the Varro Ville homestead owners, May 2016, which rated the Varro Ville landscape as nationally and state significant. He wrote that the cemetery proposal would so compromise the landscape that...

...it ‘would no longer be a landscape of State heritage value. This would have consequences too for the 1850s homestead which would be marooned and closeted in isolation from the integral landscape that gives it its critical historic context.’ See full submission here: Britton report


[1]  Paul Davies Pty Ltd and Geoffrey Britton, Visual and Landscape Analysis of Campbelltown’s Scenic Hills and East Edge Scenic Protection Lands, Final Report, March 2010, revised October 2011.

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19th March 2016

Local Catholics speak out against the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT) plans for a massive cemetery in Campbelltown's Scenic Hills...

Read (note that the article is towards end of page on the following link):

Macarthur Advertiser, 10th March 2016: Nuns treated most poorly

See Nun's submission to the Public Exhibition of the proposal in March (uploaded 21st August 2016): Macarthur Memorial Park submission
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29th February 2016

Today an article appeared in the Macarthur Chronicle promoting the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT) cemetery plans at Varroville in Campbelltown's Scenic Hills Environmental Protection Area. Here's our response to the CMCT claims: 

(1) 'No crematorium is planned for the site'...but look what we found with a quick search of the Internet!

The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT) has always claimed it had no plans for a crematorium for its proposed cemetery in the Scenic Hills. Yet just one week before it launched its proposal on the 28th August 2013, it went and registered five business names with 'crematorium' in them under 'Campbelltown' and 'Macarthur'. 

See Australian Business Names for CMCT: No crematorium?

Around 65% of people opt for cremation and this is growing. So it's hard to believe that a viable cemetery operator would plan a cemetery today without a crematorium. 

If the CMCT eventually puts in a crematorium, then we'll end up with an industrial complex in our Hills. However if it doesn't and its cemetery turns out to be unviable, then we'll end up with a 'white elephant' instead...

Either way it's a bad outcome for the Hills!


(2) It '...will not feature any headstones'....but look what we found in the cemetery Masterplan on Exhibition!

The CMCT's proposal is labelled a 'lawn cemetery' on planning websites and residents could be forgiven for believing this when the CMCT claims publicly that it  '...will not feature any headstones'...

...but page 33 of its Masterplan ('Burial Areas') shows all burial options are on offer, including:

·                Monumental Lawn burial: with headstones up to a metre.

·                Monumental graves: with monuments up to 1.5 metres high.

·                Family Estate Blocks: described as 'cubes with an expected capacity for nine interments' (i.e. 'Family Crypts').


Three-foot headstones, five-foot monuments and little concrete bunkers in our Hills does NOT a lawn cemetery make!


(3) 'The first stage will consist of two chapels, an office, condolence room, workshop and holding area.'

...but pages 31 and 37 of its Masterplan lists the following for Stage 1:

·       A multipurpose chapel that can function as three chapels...(capacity not specified)

·       A mortuary facility…

·        A function room…

·        A cafe and flower shop for casual visitors…

·       An administration building…

·        Ground staff facilities with material and equipment storage…

·        A gatehouse…


In other words...a large commercial complex, complete with parking areas, concrete roads etc.

And then there's the endless modifications that can happen following rezoning...


(4) CMCT claims it will deliver 'much-needed burial spaces' 

The CMCT has been claiming in its promotional material that 'all existing [burial] space in the Macarthur region will be depleted within the next 30 years'. This was...well, not true! Last week the CMCT's 'mistake' was exposed when the nearby privately-owned Forest Lawn Memorial Park claimed it had enough burial space to cater locally for 70 years...causing the CMCT to 'clarify' its previous claim and change its promotional strategy. 

It is now admitting that the shortage of burial space only applies to the Crown Trusts (i.e. those run for the Government), and that these are needed to provide competitive burial options 'across Sydney' as well as Macarthur.

If we are now providing burial options for the rest of Sydney, there's less sensitive land further down the M5 with better access for the rest of Sydney...rather than pouring into an Environmental Protection Area through residential suburbs, past monasteries, schools and sensitive bushland...

Crown Land Trusts might also have some way to go to convince the NSW Treasurer that they can compete effectively with private industry. See the following article...

Sydney Morning Herald, 29th February 2016: Jobs on the line in Treasurer's efficiency drive


(5) 'Burial site pricing is expected to be up to 50 per cent lower than private cemeteries in the area.' 

'Expected'?

Two years ago the CMCT told members of the Scenic Hills Association it expected to charge on average $4800 for a burial plot. This seems to be about the same as local private operators today. And that doesn't include the cost of interment, plaque or monument. 

Without the detail and binding guarantees, we'll treat this claim like the others.


(6) CMCT says 'we are committed to retaining and improving the heritage aspects of the site with the lightest touch possible on the land...'

The CMCT was obliged to prepare a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) '...in consultation with the Heritage Division of the Office of Environment and Heritage' prior to Public Exhibition. It was to include significant views and vistas:

·       The most significant heritage views are from Varro Ville Homestead, which is the only part of the site listed on the State Heritage Register. No views have been taken from Varro Ville Homestead because the homestead is privately owned and the CMCT has no right of access. The owners object to the cemetery. 

·         There is no evidence that the Heritage Division was ever 'consulted' during the preparation of the CMP, and the CMP has not been approved or endorsed by either the Heritage Division or the NSW Heritage Council.

·        Digging up the site for 136,000 graves, roads, lawns, formal gardens etc. is NOT the 'lightest touch possible on the land' - it is highly invasive, and destructive of the colonial landscape associated with Varro Ville Homestead. This landscape has been protected by the Scenic Hills' planning controls up to now (see opinion of the NSW Heritage Council below).


In 2013 and 2015 respectively, both the NSW Heritage Council and the National Trust of NSW formally objected to the cemetery proposal:


Read: National Trust objection


The NSW Heritage Division will make a further assessment of the revised plans during the Public Exhibition. However, due to various actions by this government, we are concerned about the Division's perceived freedom to now say what it thinks:


1.    28th November 2013 - the NSW Heritage Council objects to the cemetery proposal. 

2.   26th August 2014 - the NSW Heritage Council advises the Heritage Minister to make an Interim Heritage Order (IHO) over the proposed cemetery land to enable its significance to be determined, saying the land is of potential State Heritage Significance.

3.    1st October 2014 - the Minister declines to sign the IHO and directs the Heritage Council to manage the heritage values of the site as part of any future development (even though most development is prohibited on the site because it's an Environmental Protection Area).

4.   29th January 2016 - the Heritage Minister appoints the CMCT's heritage consultant on the Varroville cemetery, Stephen Davies, as Chair of the NSW Heritage Council. Stephen Davies is a Director of Urbis Heritage and is the representative of the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese on the Council's Religious Property Advisory Panel. 

      Standard procedure at the Heritage Council is that Davies must absent himself from any Council meeting where Varro Ville Homestead and the proposed cemetery are considered.


(7) '...minimal visible impact'.

The CMCT says it 'will deliver ...burial space and parklands in a way which ensures there is minimal visual impact...'

The site is highly visible from multiple points around Campbelltown, including residential suburbs, look-outs, places of work and public roads. It overlooks the entry to Campbelltown from the Hume Highway (M5) going south. To hide the cemetery (as proposed) the CMCT would have to dramatically alter the site, destroying its rural pastoral character and its heritage. This is contrary to key objectives of the zoning.


(8) CMCT says it will provide access to the land, 'which for the first time will be enjoyed by all of the community'.

Apparently no one at the CMCT lives locally or they'd know that generations had access to this piece of land via the Scenic Hills Riding Ranch until it was closed off by developers in 2011. 

There's no evidence that people use cemetery parkland recreationally, so this will now be lost to the community forever.


(9) Better than housing?...or a commercial development? The CMCT has claimed in its promotional material that the site 'was once in the sights of home builders and commercial developers.' 

Well it still is! The CMCT's cemetery is a commercial development.

That's why the CMCT has to apply for a rezoning - its development is currently prohibited.

1.       Under the existing Campbelltown Local Environment Plan - District 8 (Central Hills Lands), 'commercial premises' is prohibited land use. It's the commercial nature of this development that makes it prohibited.

2.       Under the new Campbelltown Local Environment Plan 2015 (that comes into effect in March 2016), 'cemeteries' are an expressly prohibited land use.


If this cemetery goes ahead, it will make a prohibited land use permissible. If it can be done once, it can be done again and again - including for prohibited housing estates - until there's nothing left of our Hills! 

Instead of saving the Scenic Hills from these developments, we fear it is opening the Environmental (E3) zone up to them...and not just here in Campbelltown.


(10) CMCT claims it is 'not for profit'.

True, but don't be fooled by this. An NFP organisation can still make a profit in the sense that most people understand it, but it doesn't pay income tax because of the way it uses its profits.

See government definition: Not for Profit

This claim appears regularly in the CMCT's glossy brochures. However we can't help but feel it's just PR spin to gloss over the fact that the CMCT is just another commercial operator, driven by the same quest for money...but paying no tax.

________________________________

You can read the original article in the Macarthur Chronicle using the link below...but then do what the Chronicle didn't do...read the detail in the CMCT's proposal (see left hand side of this page for the link).

Macarthur Chronicle 29th February 2016'Promises'


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25th February 2016

CMCT 'clarifies' its claim of burial shortage in the Macarthur area

On the 15th February the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT) issued a statement claiming that the Varroville Cemetery (Macarthur Memorial Park) 'would alleviate the impending shortage of burial sites in the Macarthur region'

This was challenged by a local cemetery operator (Forest Lawn at Leppington) who claimed it had enough burial space to cater for the area for 70 years (Macarthur Chronicle 22nd February 2016).

The CMCT has now issued a 'clarification' saying that the shortage of burial space only applies to Crown cemeteries, not private ones. In other words, there is NO shortage of burial space in the region at all!

As a Crown Trust, the CMCT manages cemeteries on behalf of the NSW Government. We can't help but feel that the NSW Government, in partnership with the CMCT, simply wants a slice of the lucrative business of dying in one of Sydney's growth areas, competing directly with a private cemetery operator just 10 minutes away at Leppington... while using a PR company to put fear into the community about 'burial shortage'!

So, having been caught out, it has now it's changed its 'sales pitch' - it has hit back at Forest Lawn suggesting that private operators are more expensive and there needs to be competition so that people have other options. Really? Some proof please!

A commentator on Facebook suggested that this is just another version of 'Woolies & Coles'...

Do we want to lose all our green spaces in a competitive bid between two operators? Will one end up closing down and selling off its remaining land (like Masters and Bunnings)? 

Too late for the Scenic Hills if that happens! The precedent will already have been set. 

[Note: Cemeteries are prohibited land use under the E3 zoning that comes into effect next month. For the CMCT to claim that the zoning won't change with its proposal is just more 'spin' from its PR company.]

See the CMCT's 'clarification' to the following article:

Macarthur Chronicle 22nd February 2016No shortage of burial land
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22nd February 2016

Local cemetery operator questions Catholic Cemeteries claims of burial shortage

Forest Lawn Memorial Park at Leppington - ten minutes from the ill-chosen cemetery site of the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust in Campbelltown's Scenic Hills (an Environmental Protection area where commercial cemeteries are prohibited) has hit back at the CMCT's claim about the urgent need for burial land in the region, saying it has enough burial land to service the area for around 70 years.

Further Reading:

Macarthur Chronicle 22nd February 2016No shortage of burial land


And Campbelltown Council steps in...

At its February meeting, Campbelltown City Council called on the NSW Government to find a permanent solution to preserve and protect the Hills from developers.

Macarthur Advertiser 22nd February 2016: Hands off our Scenic Hills

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12th February 2016

The Scenic Hills Association launches its campaign against the cemetery, backed by local MPs

On the 12th February, farmers, members of religious communities, local MPs and the owners of Varro Ville Homestead joined other residents in launching a campaign to halt the unwanted and unneeded cemetery in Campbelltown's Scenic Hills Environmental Protection Area. The landscape is beautiful, historic, highly visible to the community, contains sensitive land uses (monasteries, state listed heritage)...and has been protected up until now by being landlocked - making it otherwise completely unsuited to the busy, industrial complex that this cemetery is destined to become over time. 

Further Reading:

Macarthur Advertiser: Campaigners step up fight

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12th February 2016 (updated 11th August 2016)

NSW Government's secret deal with Catholic Cemeteries


Background :


On the 11th March 2014 Campbelltown City Council voted by 11-2 councillors to refuse the rezoning of land at Varroville in Campbelltown's Scenic Hills (an Environmental Protection Area) for a massive 136,000 grave cemetery. The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT) - an entity of the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese - applied to have this overturned in a 'Pre Gateway Review' by the NSW Government. The review panel - the Sydney West Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) - recommended to the Planning Minister that it proceed for rezoning. The proposal went on Public Exhibition over the Christmas holiday period.  After outcry from the community the exhibition period was extended to the 21st March 2016.


Secret land deal discovered on the 7th February in the middle of the Public Exhibition

The documents on exhibition show the proposed cemetery site is owned by land developer the Cornish Group who had been unsuccessful in getting it rezoned over many years. The Minister for Primary Industries (and Crown Cemeteries) had advised that the CMCT could only purchase the land AFTER it had secured a successful rezoning and Development Application approval, giving the community a chance to have its say first.

The proposal stalled amid overwhelming opposition from the local community, Campbelltown City Council, local MPs and heritage organisations including the government’s own heritage adviser, the NSW Heritage Council: Fight to save Hills

On the 7th February 2016, the Scenic Hills Association discovered that the NSW Government had secretly changed its conditions of consent allowing the CMCT to buy the historic site for a price that assumes the planning approvals have already been given -  preempting the outcome of the Public Exhibition which is still in progress. 

A spokesperson for the Scenic Hills Association said, ‘The planning process in NSW is in total disarray. The Government just keeps changing the rules, allowing developers to make profit windfalls from zoning changes that haven’t gone through a proper assessment process. No one buying property in this state can rely on their 149 certificates anymore. No one is safe.’


Landowners blindsided

The owners of the state heritage-listed Varro Ville Homestead located on a battle-axe block in the middle of the cemetery site said, ‘We woke up one morning and were told by the media we’d be living in the middle of a 136,000-grave cemetery; and we’d have our say during the Public Exhibition period. It was bizarre. After two and half years the exhibition documents still don’t stand up to scrutiny. So now the government's had to step in before it could be exposed.’

The Carmelite friars are also set to be damaged by the proposal. They own the land on the opposite side of the currently 'no-through' rural road that is scheduled to become a busy sub-arterial road to service the funeral and burial business as it grows - conflicting with the retreat centre run by the friars since the 1960s, and the tranquillity of the nuns’ and friars’ monasteries.

But the immediate landowners are not alone. Campbelltonians regard the Scenic Hills as iconic, giving them their sense of place and identity. The Hills are the backdrop to Campbelltown. No matter how the Church paints the picture, there’s no way to conceal that it’s a cemetery. The Scenic Hills are for the living - many people grew up riding their horses through the proposed cemetery site.But if the Sydney Archdiocese has its way, it will become the 'Dead Heart of Campbelltown'.


Further Reading:

Macarthur Chronicle:Trust buys land without planning approval

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10th November 2013

Catholic Cemeteries Trust still shows contempt for community - pretends 'no rezoning', 'no opposition'...

Does the Trust speak in the name of 'the Church' when it makes these blatantly inaccurate claims for its project? We don't think so... 

Facts: The Trust submitted a rezoning application to Campbelltown Council on the 9th September to have the Local Environment Plan amended to enable the historic core of the 1810 Varro Ville estate, in the heart of the Scenic Hills Protection Area, to be used for a massive commercial cemetery. The proposed cemetery is prohibited land use in the Hills (otherwise the Trust could have gone straight to a DA). Local newspapers & their Facebook pages are full of protest against this project. The Varroville Carmelite nuns and friars have written to the Trust opposing the cemetery for being incompatible with the zoning & heritage of the Hills...Yet the Trust continues to say that the zoning will not change and that there is no community opposition. Hello?

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18th September 2013 (updated in orange in 2014)

The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust wants planning controls changed (i.e. land rezoned) to allow the development of a large commercial cemetery in the heart of the Scenic Hills. If approved by Council it will destroy our heritage and could set a dangerous precedent.

The Scenic Hills Association is shocked to learn of a proposal to change planning controls (a rezoning) for the historic core of the 1810 Varro Ville estate in the heart of the Scenic Hills Protection area to allow a commercial cemetery to be developed. The proposal was apparently planned in secrecy by the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust and launched with an 'invitation-only' news event on Wednesday (28/8/13) that excluded the owners of Varro Ville House located in the middle of the proposed cemetery. Special invitees included the Board of the Catholic Club, the Bishop of Wollongong & MP Bryan Doyle (who is NOT the MP for this part of the Scenic Hills). Local MP Andrew McDonald (who is the MP for this area) was kept in the dark about the project. The owners of the House were called to a meeting after the media launch and told of their fate.

Channel 10 News' John Hill picked up the story:
(Note: If Video below doesn't work, click here )

YouTube Video


False &/or misleading claims in news item above:

(1) The Trust claimed it consulted the owners of Varro Ville House 'at the identical time as everybody else in the community'. WRONG. The owners were never consulted at any time. They were informed of their fate AFTER the Trust had released the information at an invitation-only media event. The owners were not invited to the event.

(2) The Trust implied that it had offered to buy Varro Ville House at market value (value not specified). WRONG. The Trust had never told the owners it would buy Varro Ville House at any price.

Here are some more false &/or misleading claims and assumptions about this proposed cemetery.

  • The zoning will stay the same.
    • Not possible if this cemetery is to proceed. The Trust is 'playing with words' when it claims that 'the underlying zoning will not change'. 'Fact: The Trust is seeking to have cemeteries added to the Local Environment Plan as a permissible land use (currently it is prohibited). According to Council staff this will only be applied to the land the Trust wants to purchase (three lots stretching along St Andrews Road). This is technically a 'rezoning'. The Trust has already submitted a rezoning application.
  • The colonial landscape will be preserved for future generations/in perpetuity.
    • Not possible with this proposal. As shown on its website, the Trust plans to develop the colonial dams, the 19th century parkland and much of the old vineyard terracing. It will separate Varro Ville house from its farm outbuildings and landscape setting with modern security fencing, shear off hilltops to flatten and even out the area (according to consultants), criss-cross the landscape with a network of new roads, boardwalks & paths, and will install security fencing around the perimeter.  Colonial landscape gone! Replaced with a man-made 'Disneyland for the Dead'!
  • The Trust has done extensive research to show that the impact on heritage will be minimal.
    • No. The Trust has not been able to show any research findings to support such a conclusion. Existing studies contradict the claims of the Trust.
  • There is very little community opposition.
    • Really? So far the only local MP supporting this is Bryan Doyle. That's one out of six. And read the community comments below.
  • There will be minimal impact on Varro Ville House.
    • Wrong. The cemetery will make the house virtually unsaleable, destroying its value and making ongoing maintenance unviable, no matter who owns it!
  • There will be quality burial ground for the whole community.
    • Well, not quite equally so. Forty five percent (45%) will be reserved for the Catholic Church, while all the other denominations will be squeezed into the remaining fifty five percent (55%) - even though this is being managed on behalf of the Crown.
  • The proposal will conform to the zoning objectives by preserving 37 hectares of landscape park for future generations to enjoy.
    • No it won't. If the main purpose doesn't conform with the objectives, then preserving public space with it does not change this fact. Every rejected development proposal for this land over the years claimed it would preserve the landscape and/or provide parklands or gardens: the RTA's Varroville Truck Stop, AGL's coal seam gas field and the Cornish Group's Business Park (industrial estate). No one wanted to use parkland that accommodated a 24/7 truck stop, a CSG field, or an industrial estate. It won't change with a cemetery.
    • It also won't give the community 37 hectares of parkland either - at least not in the lifetime of most of us. The Trust claims that Stage 1 will last for 60 years. Stage 1 has only 7 hectares of parkland. After that....well, the Trust has told us that it cannot guarantee what might change in 60 years' time, including that all the land may eventually be used for graves, just like Rookwood. So much for future generations! This is just a 'foot in the door' like all the other proposals before it.
  • There are no plans for a crematorium.
    • This doesn't mean that there will never be a crematorium...only that there is no plan now for one. The choice of words is significant. The Trust has engaged a PR company to advise it.
  • Councillors are or are likely to be supportive.
    • Assuming the Trust really believes this, what does it know that we don't? A number of Councillors have already spoken out against this, and the majority of Councillors were voted in at the last election promising to preserve the Scenic Hills area just as it is.
  • The Carmelite community of nuns and friars at Varroville are supportive.
    • Not so. The Carmelite Nuns wrote to the Trust on the 15th September saying they opposed it. The Carmelite Friars asked the Trust to remove a misleading video from its website suggesting they supported the cemetery and have now written to the Trust indicating their support for retaining the current zoning provisions and heritage landscape just as it is. The Carmelite nuns and friars are members of the Scenic Hills Association which is objecting to this proposal. The decision by the SHA members was, and remains, unanimous.

What is going on?

The Cemeteries Trust has already submitted its rezoning application to amend the rules, making further community consultation by the Trust meaningless. It was submitted on Monday 9th September 2013. We understand that it will go to the Planning & Environment Committee meeting of 4th March 2014 for a recommendation, and then the full sitting of Council at its meeting of 11th March 2014.

Does this sound familiar? Just before year end when the media and community are busy preparing for the Christmas/summer holiday break?

If Council votes to support this rezoning, thus allowing the Local Environment Plan (LEP) to be amended to make the cemetery permissible, it will not only destroy our heritage but could set a precedent that will make it hard for Council to refuse other such requests from developers... leading to the end of the Scenic Hills and more.

What will be lost?

(1) One of NSW's finest heritage estates (Varro Ville) that is associated with people important to the establishment of the NSW colony and to Campbelltown (refer our History page), including:
  • Dr Robert Townson (owner 1809-1827)
  • Captain Charles Sturt (explorer & owner 1837-1839)
  • James Raymond (NSW's first Postmaster-General & owner 1839-1851)
  • Judge Alfred Cheeke (Supreme Court Judge & owner 1859-1876)
  • William Weaver (Colonial Architect 1854-1856) designed Varro Ville House).
(2) A rare surviving colonial landscape.
(3) An important environmental green space known as
'the lungs of Campbelltown'.
(4) Campbelltown's scenic backdrop - separating it from Camden & Liverpool.
(5) Planning certainty for everyone in Campbelltown.

If the LEP gets amended  to allow a development that is currently 'prohibited land use' in this area - then there can be no certainty for anyone in Campbelltown about the planning controls. What might then pop up next to you that was previously 'prohibited'?

Read more (and online commentary following articles):

Macarthur Advertiser 29/8/13: Proposed cemetery could destroy scenic hills
Macarthur Chronicle 3/9/13: Plans for Huge Cemetery
Macarthur Advertiser 3/9/13: 136.000 plot cemetery proposed for Campbelltown's Scenic Hills
Macarthur Chronicle 4/9/13:Varroville house owner opposes neighbouring 136000 gravesite plan for Scenic Hills


Read Feedback (letters, chatter on Facebook, online) to the media (enlarge for better viewing):

Macarhtur Chronicle Facebook 3rd September: Click here
Macarthur Advertiser 'Your Say' 11th September:
Click here
Macarthur Chronicle 'Conversations' 17th September:Click here
Macarthur Advertiser 'Your Say' 18th September: Click here



Some more commentary from the latest Macarthur Chronicle, 2nd October 2013, shows bitterness against this proposal is growing...


"Just for the record, I am bitterly opposed to any development of any part of our Scenic Hills area...If we allow this cemetery, that may be the nail in the coffin for the Hills (pun intended)." Richard O'Neill, Ruse (p.28)

And again from the Macarthur Chronicle, 2nd October 2013...

"I have been following the proposals to desecrate the Campbelltown Scenic Hills by using them as a cemetery. I have alternate suggestions. You have quite a few schools in the area so perhaps you could use land within their boundaries. Use the vast tract on Narellan Rd now used as a friary/nunnery or use the land around Mt Carmel School. In fact you own land all over the place but you can make more money using it in other ways rather than as cemeteries. There are vast tracts of land other than the Scenic Hills in the Macarthur/Wollondilly/Camden areas, however, that's probably not attractive to you as you would have to pay "market rates" rather than screw public land from the State Government. In short, why don't you just go away and leave our greenbelt alone? I bet if I desecrated one of your churches you would be up in arms. That's how I and  a lot of people feel. Get with the program and enforce cremation and you will only need a small parcel of land. Better still, dismantle some of those monstrosities of crypts at Rookwood and start using what land you have in a better way. I'm sorry but the dead are dead and it matters not what happens to their human remains." Alan James, Leumeah (p. 30).
 

And from the Macarthur Advertiser, 9th October 2013

"I am completely against the real and dangerous threat to our environment and heritage by the proposed Scenic Hills cemetery.
The Varroville land grant dates back to Governor Macquarie, and notable pioneers including Charles Sturt farmed there.
I think the low community attendance at the so-called public meetings is misleading. The meetings seemed to be solely for the community to be told why the development should go ahead, with no scope for public discussion or feedback.
It seems to me to be a money-grabbing exercise. The access to the proposed cemetery through narrow residential streets in Kearns and Varroville will be a traffic and safety hazard. The vast tracts of unused open land around Menangle, Picton, Mt Hunter and surrounds are serviced by roads which would cope easily with heavy traffic flows. Why not leave our Scenic Hills alone?
I cannot imagine a garden as part of a cemetery complex would be an attraction for family picnics or excursions.
The fight to protect the Scenic Hills as greenspace has been raging since the 1970s. Our community are fighters for the Scenic Hills - we stopped housing development there, a business park, a truck stop and CSG mining. The Council and Cemetery Trust should not disregard our emotional investment in our area. Money is not the most important thing in life! And burial is not the most important thing in death!"
Jackie Green, Macquarie Fields, (p.14)

And from the Macarthur Advertiser, 9th October 2013


"Let's not sanitise this issue. The prospect of more than 130,000 chemically-treated, rotting human corpses seeping and oozing toxins into the natural, stable and self-sustaining ecosystem of the Scenic Hills does not bode well for the hills' biodiversity, wildlife, water table and growing tourism appeal. A cemetery would utterly destroy the Scenic Hills, transforming it into a Death Valley. Once and for all declare the Scenic hills' heritage so this magnificant site can be protected for perpetuity." Kira Leeon, Campbelltown (p.14)

And again from the Macarthur Advertiser, 16th October 2013


"I totally support others in their opposition to plans to build a cemetery in the Scenic Hills at historic Varroville by the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust. This land has such a wonderful history, held variously by the Robert Townson, Thomas Wills (brother-in-law to colonial doctor William Redfern) and Charles Sturt, the famous explorer.
Even though the Central Hills Scenic Protection Lands zone was created in April 1972 to preserve the land use in the area, I worry that when the application by the Catholic Trust comes before our council, councillors of that faith may forget they represent the community - and not the organisation making the application.. Let us hope not.
Noeline Jury, Kearns (p. 11).

For more letters: Click here

What can you do?

(
1) Send a Letter to the Editors of the local newspapers:


(2) Email the General Manager of Campbelltown Council and ask him to include your views in Council's assessment and to circulate your email to all Councillors (provide details of who you are & where you live).

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17th July 2013

Scenic Hills Association calls on EPA to terminate negotiations with AGL over air monitoring breaches and refer to the Land & Environment Court

AGL has been fined for another breach relating to its required reporting of air monitoring data from its Rosalind Park Gas Plant.On Monday the NSW Environment Protection Agency (EPA) fined AGL a mere $1000 for not publishing its data on its website within 14 days as required under the Protection of Environment Operations Act 1997. This breach (
that AGL had not published its continuous or quarterly air monitoring data since January) was picked up by the Scenic Hills Association on 5th June this year while working on a media story and referred to the EPA. This occurred while the EPA was still investigating AGL for a four year failure to continuously monitor its air emissions from its Rosalind Park Gas Plant, while falsely reporting that it was. This latest breach shows AGL is not acting in good faith and the Scenic Hills Association is calling on the EPA to terminate its negotiations with AGL over its four year failure and take the case to the Land & Environment Court.

Read:

EPA media release: Click here

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7th July 2013 (updated 13th July)

No joking matter!

If you think the cartoon below is funny, then read on below...


Rudd-O%27Farrell_cartoon_cr




















3rd July 2013 (updated 7th July - see Letters to the Editor, updated 13th July - see SMH article)

Widespread outcry erupts against the O'Farrell Government's proposed new planning system overhaul - seen as a return to the 60s and 70s, handing NSW over to developers and large commercial interests


The O'Farrell Government has taken the first steps to deliver on a a key pre-election promise to overhaul of the Planning System and give planning back to communities. The Government's proposal was on public exhibition in a White Paper and Planning Bills, with submissions closing on the 28th June. Many people would have been unaware of the massive failure of the O'Farrell Government to deliver on its promise. The overwhelming response from those that did know has been to decry the proposal and bills. Community groups, professional organisations, and the media  have warned about the damage that will be done to heritage, environment and communities as a result, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has raised the possibility of corruption. Touted as the first major overhaul of the planning system  in 35 years, many believe it is turning back the clock to the bad old days of the 1960s and 70s, including the denial of our democratic right of access to the courts.This was supposed to be the delivery of a major pre-election promise...to get rid of the last government's bad planning laws. Instead we have something much worse. Read & listen...

Newspaper articles:

Sydney Morning Herald, 29th June:
Plannning overhaul could put heritage landmarks at risk

Sydney Morning Herald, 2nd July:
Planning reforms target for corruption: ICAC
Sydney Morning Herald, 13th July: Scorn from lawyers on reforms to planning

Letters to the Editor:


Sydney Morning Herald, 3rd July:
Planning reforms put wellbeing of communities at risk
Sydney Morning Herald, 7th July: White paper puts shades of grey on developments

Radio:


Alan Jones on 2GB Friday 28th June: The NSW Planning System



W
hat can you do?
  • Send a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald: letters@smh.com.au
  • Join the email campaign on the Better Planning Network website (scroll down): Click here

Want to know more?

  • EDO NSW (formerly known as the NSW Environmental Defenders Office) has extensive coverage of this: Click here
  • The Better Planning Network also has extensive coverage of this (as above):Click here
  • The NSW Department of Planning is desperately promoting its side (against a wave of criticism). For the Government's view: Click here
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31st May 2013 (Updated 4th June)


Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) ordered to extend the closure date for submissions on Campbelltown Road Upgrade to 28th June 2013 after protest by Denham Court and Scenic Hills residents

The original closure date for submissions on the Campbelltown Road 'Upgrade' was the 13th May 2013...however many affected residents knew nothing about the project or found out too late to participate in the RMS's community information sessions.

After complaints by residents and lobbying by Campbelltown Council
and local MPs Bryan Doyle and Andrew McDonald, on the 31st May the Minister for Roads (the Hon. Duncan Gay) ordered the RMS to extend the submission closure deadline to June 28th.

Local MP Bryan Doyle put out a media release informing the community of his assistance in this matter, but has surprised residents by throwing his support behind the project before the RMS has completed its review, particularly as preliminary investigations do not support the project's claims.


Bryan Doyle MP media release:
Click here

Macarthur Advertiser, 4th June 2013: More time for Campbelltown Road upgrade feedback


YouTube Video



Visit the RMS website and see how to make an application: Click here

Visit the  Campbelltown Road Upgrade page for more information: Click here

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21st May, updated 29th May 2013


Residents vow to fight RMS plans for six lane highway through Denham Court,
destroying NSW heritage.

On Monday 20th May,
at a community forum Denham Court and other Campbelltown residents passed a number of motions to stop the Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) from driving a highway through the scenic protection area and questioned the rush to get the proposal signed-off when the proposal and the consultation process for it was clearly flawed.

At a full sitting of Campbelltown City Council on Tuesday 21st May, Councillors voted unanimously to support the community.

Read more:

Campbelltown City Council motions on this issue
: Click here

Macarthur Advertiser 15th May 2013:Anger over Campbelltown Road land grab
Macarthur Advertiser,
29th May:
Campbelltown Road businesses fear being 'wiped' out


To visit our special Campbelltown Road Upgrade page:  Click here


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21st May 2013

AGL ordered to pay $1.56 million by the Australian Competition &Consumer Commission (ACCC) for engaging in illegal door to door sales practices


In an action brought in the Federal Court
  by the ACCC, subsidiaries of energy company AGL have been fined for misleading and deceptive conduct and the making of false representations in door to door selling of the companies products (gas and electricity).

While this action was brought against a different part of AGL, it will come as no surprise to many in the
Macarthur community who have experienced AGL's attempts to sell us the benefits of coal seam gas mining (while failing to mention the potential downside).

Read More:

ACCC, 21st May 2013: Media Release
AGL, 20th May 2013: Media Release

The Dail
y Telegraph, 21st May 2013: Dodgy sales people cost AGL $1.55m
ABC Online, 21st May 2013: AGL fined over illegal door to door sales tactic


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29th April 2013

Wollondilly Community Forum overwhelmingly rejects CSG mining in the Macarthur region, despite not being told all the facts...

At a tightly controlled community forum on Monday 29th April at Picton, residents heard industry speakers put the case that CSG mining in the Wollondilly-Camden area can be relatively safe and unobtrusive, and heard politicians claim that NSW has the strictest regulations in Australia to manage the industry. There was only one panel speaker for the community. The information provided was interesting, but the limited format meant that many issues affecting local residents were not raised, and there were a number of potential misunderstandings, particularly in relation to the Camden Gas Project. However a vote taken at the end of the meeting showed that residents didn't accept what they were being told by the industry and rejected CSG mining in the area. Local Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell committed to taking that message back to Parliament.

Some potential misconceptions coming out of the forum were:

  • When speakers referred to the "Camden Gas Project" at the Forum, this included Stage 3 Northern Expansion into Campbelltown and Camden.
    • WRONG. Engineering consultant Dr Pells has told us that he did not include the Northern Expansion (Stage 3) area of the Camden Gas Project in his presentation. Unfortunately this was not made clear on the night.
  • AGL does not frack:
    • WRONG. AGL has fracked more than 80% of wells in the Camden Gas Project. In its expansion plans it has stated that it will continue to frack vertical wells and, while it does not currently frack horizontal wells, it has NOT ruled out fracking these in the future if & when the technology permits.
  • Wells have little visual impact at the surface:
    • MISLEADING. This omits impacts from the construction, fracking and well maintenance (clean-out) phases...as well as the trend to cluster well heads together (up to six well heads co-sited)...plus construction of pipelines and access roads. The photo of a single well (after site rehabilitation) presented on the night did not tell the whole story...
  • There has been/will be minimal impact on groundwater in the area of the Camden Gas Project.
    • UNKNOWN. AGL has not carried out any hydro-geological mapping of the area (that we know of) and, according to Dr Gavin Mudd of Monash University (who spoke at the Campbelltown Community Forum in February), AGL cannot claim that it has had no impact on groundwater because it has not collected the monitoring data over the last eleven years that would allow it to claim that.
  • The area of the Camden Gas Project is a good place to mine for CSG.
    • REALLY?
    • Taken in context, this conclusion is one independent expert's view based on probable impacts to groundwater only and was based on a conceptual model of groundwater rather than a detailed mapping of the hydro-geology. It was also only meant in a relative sense with regard to the extent and timeframe of impacts (i.e. how rapidly the impacts would happen) when compared with some other parts of NSW. This was not made entirely clear on the night.
    • Taken on its own (out of context), this comment is a value judgement about what matters, and will be hotly debated on social, environmental and economic grounds (amongst others), with a lot more evidence required than that presented on the night.
    • The CSG mining industry has so far not been prepared to subject itself to the kind of independent scientific scrutiny that would allow comprehensive risk assessments to be made and and its economic impacts understood.
    • The Camden Gas Project is already operating within the Sydney Metropolitan Area and Sydney's South West Growth Centre. The NSW Government has imposed a 2km exclusion zone around residential and urban growth areas because it recognises that urbanisation and CSG mining are incompatible. 
    • We believe that different language could have been used for what was presented on the night.

Disclaimer: We use our best endeavours to check our information with sources before publishing on this website.  Should anyone find errors in our account here, please contact us immediately on info@scenichills.org.au with your supporting evidence and we will publish the correction.

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11th April 2013

Federal Coalition criticises Premier O'Farrell for stalling coal seam gas mining in NSW following the recent policy change banning CSG mining in residential areas and critical industry clusters in the Hunter Valley
...yet only a month ago the Federa Coaltion was urging the Premier to do exacty this ! What's going on?Can we trust the Federal Coalition on this issue?

In early February this year the Federal Shadow Minister for Resources and Energy, Ian McFarlane criticised the O'Farrell Government for not imposing exclusions zones around residential areas and industry clusters in the Hunter Valley...

ABC 702 PM with Mark Colvin, 12th Februrary 2013: Federal Opposition suggest coal seam buffer zones

Sydney Morning Herald, 16th February 2013: Coalition's coal seam buffer zones rejected

A week later the O'Farrell Government did as he suggested...

Sydney Morning Herald, 19th February 2013:Dead in the water: O'Farrell buries coal seam gas plans

...yet at an oil and gas industry conference in Sydney on Thursday 11th April, Mr McFarlane was quoted in the media as suggesting that the NSW Premier had "stuffed" up the CSG industry in NSW, saying NSW would run out of gas and quoting his home state of Queensland as getting it right! Really? Mr McFarlane must have been out of the country when the ABC's Four Corners program 'Gas Leak' aired a few weeks ago (see  news item of 4th April below)!

Does Mr McFarlane only read the propaganda put out by the CSG mining industry...or is he merely telling the CSG industry what it wants to hear for fear that the industry might run a PR campaign against the Coalition in the lead up to the Federal election - similar to that threatened by the mining industry against Labor at the last election?

The Australian, 11th April 2013: NSW Failing on coal seam gas: federal opposition
The Daily Telegraph, 11th April 2013: NSW risks running out of gas: coalition


We need answers so we know how to vote on September 14!
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4th April 2013
(updated 7th April)

Explosive new findings!

On Easter Monday 1st April, the ABC's Four Corners examined the claims of the CSG industry and their government backers that CSG is the 'greener-cleaner' fuel alternative to coal...and revealed how adverse environmental impacts were kept hidden from the public...


The coal seam gas industry promotes itself as a cleaner carbon-fuel alternative; but how do we know this is true? Much of the information used to back this claim has come from the industry itself...until now!  Reporter Matthew Carney talks to farmers who have seen rivers bubbling with methane, water bores polluted or depleted...examines the latest research on greenhouse gas emissions...and talks to an insider in the Queensland Government's approval system.

The program also investigated problems in the Camden Gas Project, filming residents at the recent educational forums held by Campbelltown Council, and featuring interviews
with Jon Ponsonby from Menangle Park and Jacqui Kirkby spokesperson for the Scenic Hills Association & community representative on the Camden Gas Project Community Consultative Committee.

Watch video here: Gas Leak! - Four Corners


On the 3rd April, a Fairfax Media/Nielsen Poll showed that 75% of NSW voters opposed CSG mining on farm land...

Sydney Morning Herald 3rd April 2013: Fracking fails the poll test

Alan Jones of  2GB radio talked
with representatives from five landholder-resident groups around NSW, including the Scenic Hills Association, about the Four Corners program and recent poll findings...

Alan Jones, 2GB Radio 3rd April: Alan Jones - Coal Seam Gas


...and big institutional investors get nervous...

ABC Business Insiders, Sunday 7th April 2013: CSG still dogged by environmental concerns

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27th March 2013

O'Farrell Government continues flawed approval processes for CSG mining in NSW


The O'Farrell Government last week gave approval to further Santos's CSG exploration in the Pilliga State Forest, despite environmental damage already done and concerns raised by the Environmental Protection Authority and the NSW Office of Water. Government bureaucrats continue to  facilitate 'corner cuting' by CSG companies to improve their profits while the community (and NSW taxpayers) will ultimately pay the costs in dealing with the resulting damage to the environment, other land use and health.

Sydney Morning Herald, 27th March 2013:  Man-made lakes to hold water from CSG wells

Watch the ABC's Four Corners above to see what happened in Queensland - could this be happening in NSW?
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13th March 2013


The Federal Government's Expert Scientific Panel raises more concerns over water issues...

THE federal government's expert scientific panel has raised the alarm about the cumulative impact of Queensland's $40 billion coal-seam gas developments on underground water supplies.

The concerns were outlined in a damning analysis of Arrow Energy's proposed multi-billion-dollar CSG development in the Surat Basin.

The Australian 12th March 2013: CSG panel warns of groundwater crisis

Read the advice from the Panel: iesc-advice-arrow.pdf


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12th March 2013 (updated 13th March)


Promises to protect water from CSG and other mining as Federal Election looms

Independent MP Tony Windsor from Tamworth has finally got the Federal cabinet to approve an extension of federal environmental powers to cover the potential cumulative impacts on water of new wells and mines – a move he has been demanding since he agreed to support Labor to form government in 2010.

The decision to include water as a trigger in the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act comes as the campaign against coal seam gas projects intensifies in many marginal electorates, despite the NSW government's recent decision to amend its policy to protect residential areas and industry clusters from coal seam gas mining.

Sydney Morning Herald 12th March 2013: New laws to give feds more power over csg wells and coal mines
Sydney Morning Herald, 12th March 2013: CSG changes get mixed reception

And the miners feel the
heat...

The federal government's new powers over coal and coal seam gas could delay dozens of projects and ultimately cost the industry billions of dollars, companies say...but conservation groups said the additional safeguards on water contamination would be useful in sifting out the riskier, more marginal mining and fracking projects.

The Sydney Morning Herald 13th March 2013: Miners feel heat of coal seam gas rules
______________________________________________________________________

4th March 2013

AGL considers legal action against the O'Farrell Government over its 'no go' zones in South West Sydney and the Hunter Valley.

According to media reports, AGL is investigating possible legal action against the O'Farrell Government over its recent policy announcement that would ban CSG mining within 2 kms of urban areas (above and below ground) and around industry clusters in the Hunter Valley.

The Scenic Hills Association says AGL appears to have misled the Government about 'fracking' within the Sydney Metropolitan Area, embarrassing local MPs and the Premier while simultaneously highlighting flaws in a system that relies on the word of CSG mining companies to self-manage the safety of their coal seam gas operations. The Scenic Hills Association says this system doesn't work and the Government would be neglecting its duty of care to communities in high risk situations if it allowed CSG mining to continue there.


Sydney Morning Herald, 4th March 2013: Ready to ignite. AGL considers legal action over about face on gas drilling

_______________________________________________________________________________

2nd March 2013

CSG Industry fights back at O'Farrell Government's 'no go' zones with a scare campaign based on gas supply shortage and price rises

The Scenic Hills Association is warning Campbelltown and Camden residents that the 'partial' win announced by the O'Farrell Government (that would stop Stage 3 of the Camden Gas Project from proceeding) is a temporary reprieve as the industry starts to fight back and AGL shows no signs of giving up. AGL has stated at the recent Campbelltown community information forums and in recent media releases  that it has no intention of withdrawing its Stage 3 application while at the same time claiming that it is 'listening to the community'. The Scenic Hills Association says AGL has had four years to listen to the community and has behaved with arrogance and disregard for the people of Campbelltown and Camden, treating the whole area with contempt. The Macarthur area has never accepted coal seam gas mining and nothing has changed. If AGL was listening to the community it would pack up and go (but leave a compensation fund behind for what may later come out).


The Age, 27th February 2013: AGL want Camden CSG expansion to proceed
Sydney Morning Herald, 27th February 2013: Coal Seam Gas ruling puts AGL investment in doubt
Sydney Morning Herald, 27th February 2013: Santos hits out at NSW coal seam gas regulation
The Australian, 27th February 2013: AGL Chief accuses gas suppliers trying to push up prices early


______________________________________________________________


19th February 2013 (updated 27th February 2013)

NSW Government announces 'no go' zones for CSG mining in urban areas and industry clusters in the Hunter Valley. Does this mean that the Camden Gas Project Stage 3 is 'dead in the water'?...

...It's not over yet, says the Scenic Hills Association.


The O'Farrell Government announced a sudden change of heart on coal seam gas mining in NSW today. It's proposed policy will create 'no go zones' for CSG mining within 2 kms of urban 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 announcement appears to be politically motivated by the upcoming Federal elections which will be won or lost in Western Sydney. This means that unless this policy is embedded in law, the situation could be easily reversed post-election. Further, the detail is yet to be seen and it only applies to new petroleum exploration licenses (PELs) and petroleum production leases (PPL). AGL has an existing PEL (PEL2) that includes all the outer suburbs of Western Sydney from Campbelltown in the south through to the Hills District in the north. It also holds PPLs that will allow it to continue mining for coal seam gas in Sydney's South West on the edges of Campbellown, Camden and in Wollondilly local government areas. There are many questions still to be answered on this policy and its impact on Sydney's South West.

At its meeting of the 26th February, Campbelltown City Council voted to defer its planned rally until its sees how the NSW Government plans to implement its revised policy on CSG mining. A draft State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) is expected within two weeks, however...

SHA remains skeptical that this will be sufficient as it can be easily changed post the Federal Election. We also do not believe that the Chief Scientist can research this industry by the deadline (July) set by the Government.

The policy needs to be embedded in LAW and AGL's exploration licence covering the Sydney Metropolitan Area and unused Petroleum Production Lease No.5 both cancelled. We also need to see the government take action on AGL's breach of the conditions of its Petroleum Production Lease No. 4 and a full investigation into the impacts of prior stages of the Camden Gas Project.


Media Releases

NSW Government: Click Here
Scenic Hills Association: Click here
AGL Energy:Click here

TV coverage:

Channel 10 News 19th February 2013:Backflip on coal seam gas
Channel 7 News 19th February 2013: CSG can sparks bill hike fears
Channel 9 News 19th February 2013: Coal seam gas banned from residential areas


Other media:

Sydney Morning Herald, 19th February 2013: CSG ban not election ploy, NSW Premier
Macarthur Advertiser, 19th February 2013: O'Farrell bans coal seam gas mining under Campbelltown
Australian Financial Review, 19th February 2013: O'Farrell bans csg near homes

_______________________________________________________________________________

11th February 2012


Community cries 'foul play' as AGL 'suspends' Camden Gas Project Stage 3 Northern Expansion

On Friday the 8th February, the last day that the public could make submissions on AGL's plans to mine for coal seam gas in Campbellown's Scenic Hills and Camden's newest suburbs, AGL asked the NSW Department of Planning to suspend the application and cancel the public hearings that were scheduled for the 25th (and possibly the 26th) February 2013. The Scenic Hills Association has condemned the action claiming it is a cynical move on AGL's part to manipulate the process.
We are concerned that AGL is merely trying to:
  • 'buy time' because it hasn't made its case,
  • seize back control of public relations because the community is rallying against it,
  • avoid its project becoming an unpopular election issue in the lead up to the Federal Election where the Liberal brand name may suffer damage in the crucial Western Sydney suburbs,
  • use its greater financial resources and power over government to wear the community down by dragging this application out...just as it has done now for more than three years.
SHA has been fighting this since early 2010 and this is the second time we have had to go through a Public Exhibition of this project - in both cases we were forced to make submissions over the Christmas/annual holiday break when there is little time available and it is difficult to find professional expertise to assist us (including legal expertise). AGL's claim that it wants to deal with community concerns is a smoke-screen. AGL has had three years to consult with the community and it has not wanted to listen. AGL should not be allowed to manipulate the process in its favour.

Media:

Sydney Morning Herald, 8th February 2013: AGL suspends coal seam gas wells application
The Australian, 8th February 2013:AGL halts coal seam gas expansion

Macarthur Chronicle, 8th February 2013 (note error in article: SHA hopes to not have to go through this a THIRD time, we've already been through it twice):AGL suspends application for expansion of Camden Gas Project
Macarthur Advertiser, 8th February 2013:AGL suspends its plans to mine for coal seam gas in Campbelltown

Channel 7 News, 8th February 2013:Concerns over CSG project delay
ABC News, 8th February 2013:
AGL suspends CSG expansion under Sydney suburbs


Also see Drew Hutton of LocktheGate interviewed on ABC's 7.30 NSW, 8th February 2013: Lock the Gate campaigner speaks on CSG protest arrest

________________________________________________________________________________

1st February 2013


NSW Government fails to protect the Nepean River against AGL's coal seam gas mining in Stage 2....and  SHA accuses government of putting its 'head in the sand' over inability to manage the CSG industry

On Tuesday 29th January, members of the community inspected the controversial well (MP25) drilled last year by AGL on land at Tabcorp Park (Harness Racing Club) at Menangle to see if it was flood affected following heavy rains. Campbelltown City Council had objected vehemently to this well location within 50 metres of the Nepean River, with particular concerns about the use of an open lined pit to collect waste from the drill site on a flood plain. The following photo was taken about an hour after the flood peaked on Tuesday showing the still non-rehabilitated drill pad site inundated with water and bubbling with gas. Only after the alarm was raised by others did AGL then notify the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Community Consultative Committee (CCC). It is unlikely that the community would ever have known about the situation otherwise. SHA visited the site on Wednesday with AGL, the EPA and representatives from Campbelltown and Wollondilly Councils. (Camden had no representative there.)

Flooded_CSG_well_panorama_-_Greens












Source: Greens (Note: The new CSG well is to the left beside the two 'frack tanks' and the lined pit is on the right under water that later washed back into the Nepean River, denoted by the tree line.)

Read the media releases below to see why the community finds AGL's and the Government's handling of this situation unacceptable. In summary: (1) This well and another close by (MP16) should never have been approved in such a sensitive location. (2) It shouldn't have been up to the Greens to do the EPA's job. (3) The community will never know exactly what happened here because we have to rely on AGL's word for what was in the pit before it was flooded, and industry representatives (from AGL & Jemena) were allowed to take their own air samples to verify whether the bubbling gas was methane (the EPA did not independently verify this for itself). This incident has once again showed that the system to manage coal seam gas mining in the only large scale producing coal seam gas field in NSW does not work and is doomed to repeated failure.


Media Releases:

:
SHA on Nepean failure 1st February 2013:NSW Government 'head in the sand' at Nepean River
SHA on air monitoring failure 24th January 2013:NSW Government accused of suppressing judgement on AGL

There was no media release from AGL on this latest incident, but it has put two notifications on the following site (with NO mention of the lined pit): http://agk.com.au/camden/index.php/news

Media:

Channel 7 News 30th January 2013: Flood sparks coal seam gas concerns
Sydney Morning Herald 24th January 2013 on previous monitoring failures: AGL to overhaul fracking operations

______________________________________________________________________

24th January 2013

AGL caught 'fracking' with the truth


In late December 2012 AGL was quoted in the media saying it had 'ruled out' fracking in Stage 3 of the Camden Gas Project. This line was picked up by other media and politicians including Premier Barry O'Farrell who stated this on 2GB radio. SHA, as a member of the Community Consultative Committee (CCC) for the Camden Gas Project, emailed AGL asking it to clarify the inconsistencies in information provided to the media compared with statements in its Environmental Assessment for Stage 3 as well as oral and written statements to the CCC. We asked AGL to confirm whether, as a consequence, it had misled the CCC & the NSW Department of Planning or the media & our politicians. AGL's response confirmed that it WOULD frack the vertical wells in Stage 3 if required and that it could not say in advance of drilling any well whether fracking would be required. AGL was silent about the future fracking of the horizontal wells (that it admits will run under people's houses). However SHA has written confirmation that AGL reserves the right to frack the horizontal wells if and when the technology allows it to do so in the future. (According to statements made by AGL in the CCC there is a risk of horizontal wells collapsing even without fracking).

Not quite the truth about 'fracking':

Sydney Morning Herald, 29th December 2012: Plan to mine gas under homes
Sun Herald, 30th December 2012: Hospitals, schools, houses above planned gas drilling sites
Andrew Moore interviews Barry O'Farrell on 2GB radio, 2nd January 2013: O'Farrell on 2GB

The truth about 'fracking' revealed (almost):

Sydney Morning Herald, 24th January 2013: AGL breaks fracking pledge
Sydney Morning Herald, 17th January 2013: Sydney more likely to become a hot spot for fracking, says Chief Scientist
Macarthur Chronicle 22nd January 2013: Fears over health and safety as AGL says it may use fracking

Macarthur Advertiser 23nd January 2013: Community voices fear after AGL refuses to rule out fracking

How
families and property values will be affected:

Daily Examiner, 3rd December 2012: CSG to cut property values
Sydney Morning Herald, 7th January 2013: Home owners fear gas drilling under their feet
The Age Editorial, 7th January 2013: Home owners deserve more than glib one liners
Macarthur Chronicle, 8th January 2013: Residents given a further month to have their say
Macarthur Advertiser 23rd January 2013:
Couples dream evaporates if gas drilling starts near Campbelltown
____________________________________________________________________________
1
8th January 2013

NSW Health slams AGL for lack of consultation and failure to provide an Environmental Health Risk Assessment as part of Stage 3, Camden Gas Project

Following lobbying in Parliament by local MP for Macquarie Fields, Dr Andrew McDonald (also Shadow Minister for Health) on behalf of the SHA and the local community, NSW Health (South Western Sydney Local Health District) put in an early submission on the Camden Gas Project to the Planning Assessment Commission slamming AGL.

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

Read SWSLHD submission: Click here

______________________________________________________________________

Highlights from 2012

(Latest events are presented first)

______________________________________________________________________

21st December 2012


Campbelltown City Council objects to AGL's Camden Gas Project Stage 3 (Northern Expansion)

At its meeting on the 18th December, Campbelltown City Council voted to endorse a submission to the NSW Department of Planning objecting to AGL's application to mine for coal seam gas in Campbelltown & Camden. Council also reaffirmed its call for a moratorium on CSG mining, voting: "That Council request the Minister for Energy and Resources not to issue any more exploration or mining applications until such time as scientific evidence guarantees that such activities do not compromise the environment or health of the community." Read more in Item 2.3

...while Camden Council endorses AGL's proposal subject to certain conditions and has yet to state its position on CSG mining. Read Camden draft submission
______________________________________________________________________

18th December 2012

Fears for animals over AGL's plans to mine for Coal Seam Gas in Campbelltown & Camden

Macarthur Chronicle 18th December 2012: Fears for animals over AGL's Northern Expansion

______________________________________________________________________

17th December 2012

NSW Planning Minister extends deadline for public submissions by another seven weeks to  the 8th February 2013.

NSW Department of Planning Media release
________________________________________________________________________________


17th December 2012 (updated 21st December 2012)

NSW Opposition Leader warns the rest of Sydney that if the O'Farrell Government allows AGL to mine for coal seam gas under Cambelltown & Liverpool, the door is open for the rest of Sydney...

Experts say the whole of Sydney, from the mountains to the coast, is sitting on a vast reservoir of natural gas, and energy companies are determined to get it.

Radio 2UE 17th December 2012: Coal Seam Gas for your suburb                                     Channel 7 News 17th December 2012: Entire city sitting on csg reservoir

________________________________________________________________________________

December 4, 2012 (updated 12th December 2012)

(1) Alan Jones Show: Coal Seam Gas Fields (4th December)

Alan speaks to Jacqui Kirkby, Debbie Orr, Annie Kia and Dr Andrew McDonald (NSW Shadow Minister for Health) on the implications of the Tara experience for AGL's proposed coal seam gas field in Campbelltown & Camden urban areas: Coal Seam Gas Fields

(2) Alan Jones talks to Premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell (12th December)

Alan questions the Premier about his running of the state, asking him "Where have you been?".
The second half of the interview focuses on the coal seam gas rush: Where have you been?

(3) Campbelltown Mayor Sue Dobson backs public rally to oppose AGL's Northern Expansion CSG project

Macarthur Chronicle 4th December 2012: Campbelltown Mayor backs public rally         

(4) Macarthur State Liberal MPs step forward to oppose AGL's Northern Expansion

Sunday Telegraph 9th December 2012: Fight over coal seam gas blows up                       Camden Advertiser 5th December 2012: MPs oppose gas well project                              Macarthur Advertiser 5th December 2012: Campbelltown MPs Coal Seam Gas Rebellion Macarthur Advertiser 12th December 2012: Campbelltown MPs stand firm on coal seam gas

______________________________________________________________________


November 27, 2012 (updated 28th November)

Further o
utrage as O'Farrell Government allows AGL to move ahead with plans to put a coal seam gas field across Campbelltown and Camden urban areas
(Camden Gas Project Stage 3, Northern Expansion) and removes residents' right to challenge the merits of the decision in the Land & Environment Court

Sydney is now on the front line for coal seam gas mining with plans to put production wells running from Campbelltown to Liverpool and a subsurface area covering surrounding urban areas in Camden (from Camden Town, Narellen, Harrington Park to Leppington in the north) and Campbelltown (from Mount Annan to Denham Court Road). See map: Map of CGP Northern Expansion

Watch videos:

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

.
...and Planing 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

...and local media get behind the community

'Don't use us as Guinea Pigs says Editor'


Macarthur Chronicle, 27th November 2012: Groups speak out in opposition
Macarthur Chronicle, 27th November 2012: Campbelltown should not be coal seam gas guinea pigs

Macarthur Advertiser 28th November 2012: Campbelltown residents could be guinea pigs

To find out more on the Camden Gas Project Stage 3 and how to make a submission to the Government by 8th February 2012, go to:
Issues
________________________________________________________________________

November 15th, 2012 (updated 17th & 19th November)


Latest news from Queensland -  where coal seam gas mining is well advanced - is ringing warning bells for NSW as it faces its first roll-out of CSG mining in the Sydney Metropolitan Area of Campbelltown & Camden

(1) Methane Leaks

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.

Sydney Morning Herald, 14th November 2012:
Methane leaking from coal seam gas field
ABC News 7.30, 14th November 2012: Research questions green credentials of CSG
The Australian 15th November 2012: NSW urged to halt CSG after Queensland leak

This follows claims of nose bleeds, rashes and headaches in the Tara Estate back in June that APPEA (the coal seam gas industry's association) dismissed:

Brisbane Times, 6th June 2012:
Headaches, nose bleeds...: Families feel trapped in a 'gas estate'
Toowoomba Chronicle, 5th June 2012: Nosebleeds linked to CSG in Tara

In May 2012, our local NSW MP for Macquarie Fields, Andrew McDonald (who is also the NSW Shadow Minister for Health) lodged the following question in Parliament (with response included from the NSW Department of Health): Question to Parliament #2002

Following the release of the recent research at Tara, Dr McDonald, whose electorate includes half the Scenic Hills, lodged the following question last week to Parliament on behalf of his electorate: Question to Parliament #3165

Today's Sydney Morning Herald (17th November 2012) included an interview with the NSW Department of Health which responded in part to this questions: Doctors raise alarm over toxic coal seam gas leaks

Updat
e: University researchers subjected to 'bullying' by CSG Industry body.

Sydney Morning Herald 19th November 2012: Report of gasfield leaks is premature says industry


(2) Well blow-outs and fires


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 fourth such incident in as many years according to the landowner.

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

For information about the rollout of CSG production in South West Sydney, Click here
______________________________________________________________________

November
10, 2012

O'Farrell Government removes right of legal appeal from Campbelltown & Camden residents on CSG mining.

In an extremely cynical move, the O'Farrell Government has allowed AGL to transfer its application to mine for coal seam gas in Campbelltown's Scenic Hills and Camden's newest suburbs (Stage 3 of the Camden Gas Project) from the former Government's Part 3A legislation to the new State Significant Development legislation (SSD) and has referred the application to the Planning Assessment Commission for a merit review with public hearings - a move it claims is increasing public scrutiny, but which actually removes the community's right to have
the quality of the decision scrutinised by the Land & Environment Court.


Mac
arthur Advertiser 7th November 2012: Coal Seam Gas process meets with cynicism

Sydney Morning Herald 10th November 2012: Coal seam gas will put 66 wells in south-west

This followed the announcement on the 13th September when the O'Farrell Government opened up the whole of NSW to coal seam gas mining ...renewing 22 expired licenses to explore for CSG, including AGL's Petroleum Exploration Licence No.2 (PEL2) that covers outer Western Sydney suburbs from Campbelltown & Camden northwards along the M7 to the Hills District...and lifting its ban on fracking without providing its promised report from the Chief Scientist into fracking safety and well integrity. (Read more about this below, 13th September 2012)

______________________________________________________________________


31st October
2012

Update on the CSG Mining and fracking
from overseas and Australia

Los Angeles Times, 24th October 2012:
US gas bonanza from sha
le gas fracking slow to spread globally
Los Angelse Times, 31st October 2012: Australians torn over promises, risks of coal seam gas 'fracking'

________________________________________________________________________________


October 23rd 2012


Scenic Hills Association joined other AGL Affected Communities in protesting at AGL's Annual General Meeting - City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney.

See photostream courtesy of Kate Ausburn, LocktheGate: AGL AGM Protest

SHA Media Release:Click here

Herald Sun, 23rd October 2012: AGL faces anger over coal seam gas
Business Spectator, 23rd October 2012: Shareholders mock AGL chief over CSG
Macarthur Advertiser 31st October 2012: Coal seam gas protest targets AGM

________________________________________________________________________________

September 13 2012 (updated 20th September 2012):

Western Sydney sold out to coal seam gas mining by O'Farrell only two days after cynically claiming Liberal swings in Council Elections

In a cynical deception of Western Sydney voters, the O'Farrell Government waited only two days after claiming Liberal swings in the Council elections before announcing it had renewed AGL's Petroleum Exploration License No.2 (PEL2) and lifted its ban on fracking. PEL2, which expired in March 2011, stretches across Sydney's western suburbs from Campbelltown in the south west and taking in other local government areas of Liverpool, Blacktown, Penrith and the Hills Shire in the north west. We are still waiting for the details to see if AGL has successfully applied to keep the whole of the PEL2 land area or has had some of it reduced.

This opens the way for AGL to proceed with its application to put an initial 72 wells across Campbelltown's Scenic Hills Protection zone (despite extractive industries and mines being prohibited land use under the Local Environment Plan) and in Camden's new urban release areas along Camden Valley Way from Narellan in the south to East Leppington in the north. From these locations the wells will run horizontally for up to 2.5 kms under the surrounding suburbs of Campbelltown, Camden and possibly Liverpool (AGL is yet to confirm the last). AGL's main gas gathering pipeline will run along the Upper Canal carrying Sydney's back-up water supply and through the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan.

AGL says it does not know where the aquifers in this area run to, but 'probably Sydney Harbour'.

The NSW Department of Planning is waiting for AGL's response to public submissions before making its recommendation to the Planning Assessment Commission for assessment and determination. See: Camden Gas Project, Stage 3 (Northern Expansion)

Media:

Sydney Morning Herald 12th September 2012: Entire state up for grabs

Sydney Morning Herald 12th September 2012: Floodgates have opened - CSG opponents

Macarthur Advertiser 19th September 2012: Coal seam gas wells about to spread out
______________________________________________________________


August 28, 2012:


AGL's angers Campbelltown residents with careless disregard for their welfare:

(1) Admits it discontinued continuous air monitoring at the Rosalind Park Gas Treatment Plant in 2009 (in breach of its conditions of approval for Stage 2 of the Camden Gas Project):
Media:
Channel 7 News 22nd August 2012: AGL gas emission checks fails
Macarthur Advertiser 22nd August 2012:AGL gas emission checks fail

(2) Started drilling 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:
Media:
Channel 7 News 22nd August 2012:
Locals 'not told of new csg well'
Sydney Morning Herald 23rd August 2012: AGL starts work on Sydney coal sea gas well
Macarthur Advertiser 22 August 2012:
Gas well described as a breach of trust
Macarthur Chronicle 28th August 2012: NewMenangle Park residents want answers
Macarthur Chronicle 28th August 2012: AGL response on Menangle Park CSG debate

_________________________________________________

April 10, 2012:

Audit of CSG industry flawed:

Sydney Morning Herald 10th April 2012: Missed pollution leak raises concerns about credibility of mine audit


The latest expert commentary in February & March 2012 against Unconventional Gas (eg coal seam gas and shale gas) from USA & Australia

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists discover unacceptably high levels of methane emissions from unconventional gas mining (Sydney Morning Herald 11th February 2012): New study dirties CSG image

"Fracked gas is not a 'bridge fuel' to some cleaner era, but a rickety pier extending indefinitely out into a hotter future."
(New York Review of Book, 8th March 2012): Why not frack?

Worley Parsons (Australia) study confirms doubts about CSG as a 'transition fuel' from coal to renewables (reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald, 28th March 2012): Gas could be just as dirty as coal


Professor Alan Randall, Agriculture and Resource Economics, Sydney University, (The Conversation 30th March 2012): 
Going slow on CSG makes economic sense

Professor Garry Wilgoose, Newcastle University, argues that the recently announced NSW & Federal Government policies on CSG aren't the solution (Business Spec: A half baked solution to CSG concerns



AGL is pushing  ahead with the next stage of the Camden Gas Project (Stage 3), northwards into Campbelltown's Scenic Hills and  Camden's new residential Release Areas

See original proposal map:Camden Gas Project Stage 3 Northern Expansion


Media:

Channel 7 News story on Camden: Homes to be built next to gas wells
Camden-Narellan Advertiser 21/3/12: New home buyers left out of the loop
Camden-Narellan Advertiser 21/3/12: Coal seam gas outrage heats up as next stage looms
SMH on the CSG industry 17th March 2012: A $200b push to become world's biggest gas power

 
Help us to stop AGL pushing its Camden Gas Project northwards into Campbelltown's Scenic Hills & Camden's new residential release areas.
For more information see first item on our Issues page

Coal Seam Gas Moratorium Fails in the NSW Upper House 15th March 2012

On Thursday the 15th March a Private Members Bill from Jeremy Buckingham MLC - for a 12 month moratorium on CSG mining approvals in NSW and a prohibition on CSG mining in the Sydney Metropolitan Area and Sydney's water catchment - was defeated.The NSW Labor Party and Greens supported the Bill but it was defeated when the Shooters & Fishers and Christian Democrats sided with the Coalition Government. It may be re-presented in an amended form after the NSW Upper House Inquiry hands down its findings 3rd May 2012.


Read: Transcript of Parliamentary debate
 
Media:

The Australian 15/3/12:
CSG Moratorium fails in NSW Upper House

Channel 9 News 15/3/12 (includes Rally): CSG Moratorium fails in NSW Upper House

Macarthur Chronicle Camden 20/3/12: Coal seam gas fight goes on in Camden
Camden-Narellan Advertiser 21/3/12: No support from Upper House




STOP PRESS!

The O'Farrell Government has released the first of its draft Strategic Regional Land Use Plans for NSW that determine where mining, including coal seam gas mining, will be allowed to co-exist with other regional land use. No land is out of bounds - a bitter disappointment for the anti-coal seam gas lobby and seen as another broken election promise by the NSW Coalition - 6th March 2012.

The NSW Upper House Inquiry into coal seam gas has not yet handed down its findings, but already the NSW government has pre-empted the findings by announcing policy for major regional areas of NSW (New England, North West and Upper Hunter - including the wine growing areas around Broke and Pokolbin) that ensures that no land in NSW is off-limits to mining. There will be stricter tests for applications to mine in areas that are deemed to be of strategic value for other land use (including prime agricultural land), but this can be overridden by the NSW Government where it decides there are 'exceptional circumstances' based on the value of the underlying resource. The Government uses the word 'independent' when referring to the scientific investigations that will accompany these strict tests, but the community has learned to be skeptical about true independence. We do not yet know who will be appointed to the scientific panel that will conduct these investigations. Importantly it appears that these tests won't apply to coal seam gas exploration even though as much damage can be done to the environment at that stage as during full production. The announcement has been condemned by organisations in the government's own advisory group, the Stakeholder Reference Group, such as the NSW Farmers Association, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW and the Total Environment Centre...More will be published on this over the next few days when we have conducted more analysis -  including what it means for South West Sydney.

Watch: ABC 7.30 NSW Debate between Minister Hazzard and Jeremy Buckingham


Read:

Strategic Regional Land Use Planning explained: NSW Dept of Planning SRLU
Draft Policy Plans and Strategic Land Use Maps: Strategic Regional Land Use Draft Plans
NSW Government Media Release: Media_Release_NSW_DoP_CSG_060312.pdf
Media Release from Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham: Media Release Jeremy Buckingham
Media Release from the NSW Farmers Association: Media Release NSWFA
Media Release from the Nature Conservation Council: Media Release NCC of NSW
Media Release from the Total Environment Centre: Media Release TEC

Other Media:

Sydney Morning Herald 6th March: Tighter controls for mining and coal seam gas drilling
The Australian 6th March: NSW to implement tough CSG conditions
Sydney Morning Herald 10th March: Drill rules may be too porous

On Sunday the 4th March the Hunter Valley winegrowers made their case against coal seam gas mining on the ABC Landline program. See video: Anxious Harvest


Opinion:

Sydney Morning Herald 1st March:
Mining gas in NSW is viable if its controlled
Response from Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham: Media Release Coal Seam Gas is a dead end




Highlights from 2011

(Latest events are presented first)

NSW Upper House Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas - General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5 (Coal Seam Gas) - to conclude April 2012

On the 5th August the NSW Upper House announced that it would hold an inquiry into Coal Seam Gas. Submissions were invited from the public and closed on 14th September with more than 1000 submissions lodged - including from SHA and from a number of SHA's Friends' and members. SHA was subsequently invited to appear at a Hearing in Mittagong on 9th December, and made a  supplementary submission to the Inquiry just before Christmas.
The Inquiry will conclude and publish its findings in April 2012

Submissions (SHA's are No. 648 and 648a) and Hearing Transcripts can be found at: GPSC5 (Coal Seam Gas)

The Carmelite Nuns of Varroville also appeared at the Hearing in Mittagong and were subsequently interviewed by the ABC (both radio and TV News):

Listen to AM Radio broadcast: ABC AM Radio Carmelite Nuns
[Watch this space for ABC TV News broadcast]

NSW Labor changes policy on coal seam gas - calls for moratorium, 10th November 2011

On the 10th November 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. SHA welcomed the announcement, but continued to lobby for recognition of other issues associated with CSG in the Macarthur area as well, such as land use conflicts. (Read more on our Issues page.)

Read:
ABC News: Labor reversal burns NSW csg industry
SMH: Labor accused of coal seam gas hypocrisy
Macarthur Advertiser: McDonald urges halt

SHA Public Information Meetings in Campbelltown, 29th October & 19th November 2011

Responding to the lack of information about coal seam gas mining in the Macarthur area generally - and in particular AGL's plans to extend northward into Campbelltown and its Scenic Hills - SHA held two information meetings and called for a Campbelltown DAY OF ACTION against CSG. Approximately 100 people attended the two sessions. AGL managers came to the first meeting and accused SHA of misleading the community. This caused anger amongst residents at the meeting. SHA subsequently gave AGL the opportunity to privately air their concerns to SHA but reserved our right to speak openly with the public and to give an alternative point of view on CSG and the Camden Gas Project. Plans for a DAY OF ACTION were held over to 2012.

Read:  SHA Media Release 021111
Read article in Macarthur Chronicle:
AGL accused of bully tactics


Spring Farm home buyers not told of AGL coal seam gas field, 29th August 2011

On a tour of the AGL's Camden Gas Project near Menangle, Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham discovered coal seam gas wells operating close to housing in a new residential estate being built by Landcom at Spring Farm. Subsequent investigation showed that NSW Government policy permits houses to be built within 20 metres of existing gas wells. Channel 10 interviewed home buyers who claimed they had not been told.

Read SMH August 30: Buyers not told of proposal to drill for CSG
Watch video: Channel 10 News Report Spring Farm


Alan Jones 2GB campaigns against Coal seam Gas

In 2011 broadcaster Alan Jones threw his support behind the campaign to stop the devastation wrought by coal seam gas and coal mining on our agricultural lands, water and communities. On 11th October he spoke at the National Press Club in Canberra which was broadcast on ABC TV.

Watch video: Alan Jones at the National Press Club
Listen to 2GB: Alan Jones interviews Minister Chris Hartcher


AGL 's plans for a coal seam gas field in Campbelltown (Camden Gas Project Stage 3, Northern Expansion) met resistance from religious communities and Campbelltown City Council, 30th August and 1st September 2011

Listen to 2GB: Alan Jones interviews Channel 7 News reporter
Watch Channel 7 News: Acid Rain Chemicals
Watch Channel 7 News: Holy War


Campbelltown Public Forum Saturday 25th June 2011

A Public Forum was held on Saturday the 25th June
to discuss concerns about coal seam gas mining in the Camden Area and AGL’s proposal to extend the Camden Gas Project (CGP) into the Scenic Hills of Campbelltown and Camden in the Sydney Metropolitan Area. The Forum was convened for the local community by Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham in association with SHA.

Read Highlights: Campbelltown Public Forum
Watch Channel 10 News:Channel 10 News

Local outrage at renewed call for a Business Park in the Scenic Hills 8th June 2011

A report was presented to Campbelltown City Council at its meeting on the 31st May recommending areas suitable for the development of "employment lands" within the Campbelltown Local Government Area (LGA). Mayor Paul Lake sparked controversy when he recommended that the Scenic Hills be included for consideration. This coincided with a large landholding going up for sale in the Scenic Hills, causing anxiety in the community. The recommendation was eventually overruled by Council vote. Land at Hurlstone Agricultural High School was also withdrawn from consideration. Both areas have long histories of community action to preserve these green spaces.

Read article
and online commentary in the Macarthur Advertiser: Scenic zones or business park?

Read the Council report, point 2.2: 2.2 Draft Employment Lands Review


AGL Coal Seam Gas Well 'incident' at Menangle 17th May 2011
 
AGL was caught on camera 'venting' well contents to the air following a maintenance procedure that 'went wrong'. The incident occurred on the Sugarloaf property with wind carrying in the direction of the nearby Upper Canal (carrying Sydney's back-up water supply) and homes at Glen Alpine. SHA believes the investigation into the incident by the EPA and other government agencies was flawed with many questions remaining unanswered.

Read: 
Greens_Media_Release.pdf
AGL_Sugar_Loaf_Warning_Letter.pdf
SHA_Media_Release_10-8-11.pdf
AGL's Response

Watch:
Channel 10 News Scenic Hills
ABC News
Channel 10 News Gas Leak

Australian Senate Inquiry into the impacts of Coal Seam Gas on the Murray Darling Basin announced 11th May 2011

On the 28th October 2010 the Senate established an inquiry into the management of the Murray Darling Basin. Responding to intense lobbying from farming groups backed by the Australian Greens, the terms of reference were expanded in May 2011 to include an examination of the impact of coal seam gas (CSG) mining on the Basin. Submissions closed 30th June with public hearings held July to September 2011. The inquiry was criticised for limiting the impact of CSG  to just the Murray Darling Basin (and did not include the long suffering Macarthur region amongst many others). As such SHA did not make a submission. However the Inquiry revealed information about the coal seam gas industry that has been vital to the wider campaign. The Interim Report was handed down on 30th November, calling for a halt to CSG mining in the Basin. The final report is due on the 29th June 2012.

Read:
SMH: Standalone Coal Seam Gas Inquiry Stymied
The Courier Mail, July 25: Farm women join csg protest
The Australian: Senate inquiry calls for halt

Watch video ABC News: Senate hearings with CSG industry
Watch video ABC TV Lateline 30th November: Senate CSG report damns miners

Find Submissions, Hearing Transcripts and Interim Report on: Senate Inquiry:Impact of CSG on Murray Darling


N
SW Election Rally "Can't Eat Coal, Can't drink Gas" March 26th 2011.


The Scenic Hills Association spoke at the pre-election rally against coal seam gas mining.

Read Highlights: SHA at the NSW Election Rally
Read Article in Macarthur Advertiser: Support for protest
Watch Video of SHA at Rally:
 Carmelite Greg Burke Speaks

A screening of Josh Fox's award winning documentary "Gasland" was held in Campbelltown 6th March 2011 hosted by Rivers SOS

Read highlights of the evening: Screening of Gasland

For more information about Gasland visit: Gasland Australia



ABC TV's Four Corners Program "The Gas Rush" exposed the problems of coal seam gas in Australia 21st February 2011

On the 6th November 2010 SHA attended the meeting at Broke in the NSW's Hunter Valley that founded the original Lock the Gate Alliance. ABC's Four Corners was at this inaugural meeting and SHA cooperated with its producer subsequently. On the link below you can see the original Four Corners program along with extended interviews and related documentation. The Broke meeting and its organizer (John Thomson) are featured in the program. John Thomson became the first President of LTGA. SHA was active in LTGA under John Thomson's presidency but after his resignation, LTGA's structure and strategy changed. The new structure no longer gave equal footing to small lobby groups like SHA, and its strategy was not compatible with the SHA's approach. SHA withdrew membership of LTGA in July 2011 to pursue its own course, though has never ruled out cooperation with the new LTGA on matters of interest. (Read more on our Issues page)

See the following link to special coverage of ABC's Four Corners "The Gas Rush":
ABC 4 Corners The Gas Rush

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