Oakeshott hits out at Coalition over T-shirt pledge

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher and other Liberal-National Party MPs fronting the cameras wearing ‘Water before Coal’ T-shirts.INDEPENDENT Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott wants to know what happened to the NSW Liberal-Nationals’ T-shirt promise to put water before coal.

Attending the Manning Alliance’s annual conference in Wingham on the weekend, Mr Oakeshott said he was just one of many people present who wanted to know why the promise was broken.

“Just weeks before the state election, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, NSW Energy Minister

Chris Hartcher and other Liberal-National Party MPs happily stood in front of the cameras wearing ‘Water before Coal’ T-shirts,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“The reality since then has been very different, with the interests of landholders and farmers once again being dumped in the pursuit of mining royalties.

“The photo says it all. The message was clear on the T-shirt, and the political intent in a Premier and Energy Minister agreeing to put on these T-shirts could not be clearer.

“So what has happened?

“The Gloucester Valley is about to become a CSG factory courtesy of 110 coal-seam gas

wells – stage one of a 330-gas well project. That’s about one gas well for every seven


“This is a community that also faces NSW Government approval of an open cut coal mine one kilometre from the Gloucester CBD, on a site that has local scenic protection status from Gloucester Shire Council.

“This is a town of about 2000 people who live at the foot of the world-heritage listed Barrington Tops National Park, at a site on the headwaters for the Manning and Upper Hunter and, until now, was a relatively quiet, united, agricultural community.

“Post T-shirt promise, this is a community which now feels threatened by what is being proposed, and let down by NSW planning laws which seem to ‘green light’ anything to do with mining,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“I have attended enough meetings where the overwhelming community sentiment is opposition to what is happening. Even the councillors are unanimously opposed to these mining projects.

“Yet these local voices are being lost in a planning drive for a massive expansion of coalseam gas and coal mining operations throughout NSW.

“As someone who believes strongly in place-based policy, I am deeply concerned about the disempowerment of local communities. Many are feeling that their land is under threat from inadequate laws on private title, and that their sense of community and sense of place just doesn’t matter.

“This same, angry disempowerment of community is happening in many other north coast towns such as Grafton, Lismore, Ballina and Byron Bay, and there are broader concerns for food bowls such as the Liverpool Plains where locals have been fighting the good fight with NSW Planning for many years.

“This issue will come to a head in 2013, and I will do what I can to make sure the community voice is heard. At the moment, both sides of politics are failing badly,” Mr Oakeshott said.

“Our state planning laws fail to engage communities, or empower them.

“Political leaders are happy to wear the T-shirt pre-election but fail to deliver on the mantra

when it matters most, which is causing a groundswell of dissent.”

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