Gas Plan on track with NSW Strategic Release Framework
October 16th, 2015
The NSW Government has taken another step toward building a sustainable natural gas industry with the publication of its plan for designated areas for development.
The Strategic Release Framework sits alongside the NSW Gas Plan to try to provide certainty for industry and satisfactory processes for community and other stakeholders.
Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, as to whether the Government is able to strike a practical balance between workable investment opportunity and the demands of community groups heavily influenced by anti-gas activists who would prefer to see no development at all.
It is a delicate task and an important one.
As the ACCC recently made clear (echoing what the industry has been saying for two years), NSW and Victoria face the prospect of gas price rises, uncertainty of supply and even shortages if new supply is not brought onstream.
Union, business and industry groups have stated that tens of thousands of jobs are at risk, as gas-reliant businesses face interruption or even closure if the supply issue is not addressed.
There are abundant resources in the ground in NSW and Victoria and experience of the past 100 years has shown that natural gas can be, and has been, safely produced without significant environmental impact or risk to underground water.
Under the proposed Strategic Release Framework, the NSW Government will now decide which areas will be released for exploration, to add to the existing approved areas in central and northern NSW.
It will incorporate economic, environmental and social factors in its determinations, including community consultation.
In the interim, the current moratorium on new exploration applications will remain in place.
The Framework is a significant positive gesture to communities to allow them to engage with Government before approvals are made.
Hopefully it will be a key component of restoring investment and community confidence in a safe and sustainable path for responsible development of natural gas in NSW.