More gas important to east coast, industry users tell ACCC

August 6th, 2015

The East Coast of Australia needs more gas, more gas storage and lower barriers to entry in order to sustain certainty of supply and competitive terms.

That is what the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has heard from manufacturing and other industry representatives in the ongoing inquiry into the East Coast gas market.

The Melbourne hearings of the inquiry were conducted around the same time as the NSW Resources Minister, Anthony Roberts, reiterated that NSW needed to develop new gas resources to protect its energy future.

Visiting Narrabri, in northern NSW, site of a major natural gas development project, Mr Roberts reminded people of the potential benefits to regional areas, and to the State’s manufacturers, small businesses and residential consumers of gas.

“The natural gas industry has the potential to bring real wealth and hope to ‪rural and ‪‎regional areas like Narrabri shire,” Mr Roberts said.

“In Narrabri’s case, the gas industry can deliver ‪‎jobs, provide careers, kids won’t have to leave town, ‪‎farmers can source extra ‪income and re-invest in their farm and bring back the kind of ‪wealth they haven’t seen for generations.”

What Mr Roberts was describing was a picture which has been clearly painted in southern Queensland in recent years, where natural gas development has revitalised towns such as Roma, Chinchilla and others nearby, as well as the port town of Gladstone, from where LNG export ships are now departing, to the great economic benefit of the State and the nation.

What Mr Roberts was saying is that NSW and Victoria are currently missing out on the potential benefits, which are a reality in Queensland, because of a more practical, science-based approach to natural gas development.

The NSW Government has a Gas Plan, but because it has been crafted to appeal to stakeholders including activists, it is effectively lifting the ‘barrier to entry’ issue raised by representatives of the Energy Users Association of Australia in their evidence to the recent ACCC hearing.

So, the bottom line is that policy settings need to be made so that responsible developers are able to develop major projects such as that at Narrabri where there is a large resource, a need for investment in the region, and an environmental profile where issues are well able to be managed

NSW currently produces 5% of its gas needs. Without more gas and more operators, the State is on course for higher prices and less certainty of supply. And that is a recipe for business closures, job losses and a more fragile future for manufacturing in the State.

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