Upper Hunter gas community group disbanded

Newcastle Herald


30 Nov, 2010 04:00 AM

The state government has dissolved an Upper Hunter coal-seam gas committee, saying it was time for a statewide review of the way such committees operate.

Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan said he had dissolved the Bulga Community Consultative Committee because it was time for ‘‘a comprehensive review of the charter for consultative committees across NSW’’.

But a spokeswoman for the minister confirmed last night that the Bulga committee was the only one being shut down.

‘‘Yes, that’s the only committee that’s been dissolved but it’s about what best reflects the area, nothing to do with the existing committee’s actions,’’ Mr Whan’s spokeswoman said.

The committee members were told of the decision during one of their regular meetings yesterday, a course of action that ‘‘outraged’’ committee member and Singleton councillor Alison Howlett.

Cr Howlett said it ‘‘seems more than a coincidence’’ that the letter from Mr Whan making the decision was dated November 16, a day after Singleton Council voted to restrict gas exploration in its local environmental plan.

‘‘I’m not against coal-seam gas mining as such but we need a brake on some areas,’’ Cr Howlett said.

Committee observer and Hunter Valley Protection Alliance spokesman Graeme Gibson said the committee had been punished for its ‘‘robust discussions’’ over gas company AGL, which was exploring in the area.

Mr Gibson said the committee would meet again on February 7 despite Mr Whan’s move to disband it.

Mr Whan said AGL’s Hunter Gas Project used two exploration licences and ran from Newcastle to Scone and Merriwa.

A spokesman for AGL said the company remained committed to community consultation.

‘‘We will remain open and transparent with the community about our activities while the review is undertaken,’’ he said.

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