Monday, October 14, 2013

Aborigines, Greens and coal seam gas

I have referred before to the gas wars raging across New England.

Over two years ago, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), the peak body representing Aboriginal land councils in NSW, decided to become involved in resources exploration as a way of generating long term income and job opportunities for Aboriginal people. As part of its plans, NSWALC has applied for prospecting and exploration permits that, if granted, would make it the largest holder of coal seam gas exploration acreage in NSW.

According to a story in today's Australian Financial Review by Angela MacdonalNSWALC CEO Geoff Scottd-Smith (Aboriginal council takes on greens, farmers over gas), NSWALC CEO Geoff Scott has come out with a swinging attack on the green movement for refusing to negotiate in good faith. He also accused the Lock the Gate Alliance led by Drew Hutton and other anti coal seam gas groups of ignoring the Aboriginal community's need for economic development.

:Hutton was out there saying that we should be noble and grow vegetables"  Mr Scott said. "Thanks for your advice! Its not noble having people whose sewerage systems don't work. It's not noble having people live on the dole all their life".

"We want something better and we don't want to rely on government. That's not sustainable. It's benevolence."  Mr Scott went on to attack the O'Farrell government's restrictions on coals seam gas development for driving up costs without improving protection of the environment.

The Greens were not impressed. Dawn Walker, the Green's spokesperson for the Tweed Valley region, said that its opposition was to coal seam gas in general and who owned the license was irrelevant. "The Greens have a no-CSG policy. We don't believe that it is a safe industry. It is not a suitable industry for Australia."

Clearly, the twain will never meet in this case.


For those like me who get confused about aspects of the coal seam gas debate, Rod Holland had quite a useful post on his Northern Rivers Geology blog, Being tight with loose terminology?. Rod has promised to write more explanatory material.


peter davidson said...

Its so tough, aboriginal australians deserve every cent the rineharts have made yet its too late for that kind of industry to be starting such unsustainable developments.
How about a super profits mining tax that feeds directly into the re establishment of aborginal sustainability and native ecology research and an establishment of common native ecology practices led by aboriginal elders throughout australia.
Paid for by a 20% or higher tax on all mining development of australian land. Its only fair!

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, Peter. I wasn't absolutely sure just how to interpret this comment!

As an extractive industry, coal seam gas or any other mining industry lasts as long as the resource. The benefits flow during that period. It's how the revenue stream is used as compared to any costs that is relevant. One of the problems has been that the cost/benefit equation at local or regional level is skewed.

I don't think that the ecology argument holds up. The Aborigines managed the land quite carefully to achieve specific economic objectives, in so-doing modifying it greatly. The patterned landscape that resulted was in equilibrium, but that equilibrium had to be maintained. It could be brought back in part by opening up areas like national parks to controlled multiple use or by adoption of some new farming techniques (it seems to me that a lot of the sustainable farming techniques actually draw from previous Aboriginal knowledge or in some ways mimic the results of previous Aboriginal land management practices.)

However, the proposal wouldn't meet Mr Scot's basic objectives.