Putty Valley and Coal Seam Gas

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Nine days ago I visited the Putty Valley and met with local residents.

I inform those honourable members unaware of the Putty Valley that it is mid way between Windsor and Singleton, nestled between the Wollombi and Yengo national parks, and within the electoral district of Upper Hunter and the local government area of Singleton.

It is a place of indescribable beauty, a place where heaven meets earth.

The Putty Valley immediately brought to my mind the Clogher Valley in County Tyrone, in the north of Ireland.

My wife was born and reared in that valley, and we were married there.

The Putty Valley and the Clogher Valley have both been dominated by dairy farms for generations.

In Putty Valley, most of the dairy farms have given way to grazing.

The rugged terrain of the wilderness and mountain ranges surrounding Putty is reminiscent of Tyrone's Sperrin Mountains.

The Wollemi National Park encompasses the largest wilderness area in New South Wales, and is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, as is the Yengo National Park.

The area is home to one of the world's great biological mysteries: how did the Wollemi pine, the 'dinosaur tree', survive 5 million years secluded in a single canyon before being discovered?

The rural environment of the Putty Valley is today threatened by the coal seam gas industry.

So are the surrounding national parks, notwithstanding their protected status under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

We know that the extraction of large volumes of water impacts on connected surface and groundwater systems.

On 19 August 2011 Dart Energy commenced drilling a core hole to explore for coal seam gas at a property on Putty Road, in the Putty Valley area.

The bore site is just over 500 metres from the boundary of a World Heritage listed area of international significance.

The exploration site is 40 metres from Long Wheeney Creek which runs into Putty Creek, Wollemi Creek and the pristine and protected Colo River through the Wollemi National Park, before joining the Hawkesbury River.

Prior to the election, the Liberal and National parties announced that they would introduce a Strategic Regional Land Use Policy to "strike the right balance between our important agricultural, mining and energy sectors, while ensuring the protection of high value conservation lands".

The Coalition's election policy stated that "The NSW Liberals and Nationals believe that agricultural land and other sensitive areas exist in NSW where mining and coal seam gas extraction should not occur."

Today's announcement of the Government's Draft Upper Hunter Strategic Regional Land Use Plan provides no comfort whatsoever to the people of the Putty Valley.

The protection of strategic agricultural lands and high conservation values is left to a process which can sideline water protection and be sidelined itself if the government deems the project to be ‘exceptional’.  

There’s no certainty for sustainable agriculture nor threatened habitats.

I do accept a role for gas in this state's energy mix.

I also believe that there should be no go areas.

The NSW Liberals and Nationals used to believe this too – at least until polling day last year.

I believe that the Putty valley is a perfect example of a sensitive area that should exclude mining and extractive industries, in order to protect its significant environmental values.

Allowing the coal seam gas industry into the Putty Valley would create a pustule of industrialisation in the heart of the Wollemi and Yengo World Heritage areas.

The Putty Valley is no place for the gas industry.