THE tight-knit community of Drake says residents feel “isolated” after Tenterfield Shire Council voted not to support them in their fight against a petroleum exploration licence in the area.
Late last month, the company Macquarie Energy Pty Ltd made an application for a petroleum exploration license to the NSW Department of Trade and Investment.
The application is centred on an area about 5km north-east of Drake.
A petroleum exploration licence is the first step towards coal seam gas mining.
At last week’s council meeting, Cr John Macnish put a notice of motion forward asking the Tenterfield Shire Council object to the licence application and if the licence was granted, refuse Macquarie Energy permission to explore on any land within the Tenterfield Shire.
The motion was voted down eight votes to one.
“I am very disappointed, very, very disappointed,” Cr Macnish said after the vote.
“It would have just been a nice show of support for the community of Drake and I think council has clearly failed to do that.”
Mayor Toby Smith said he voted against the motion because he believed he did not have enough information about the proposed project to make a decision.
“As a council we are here to represent the whole shire and I thought it was a bit premature to make a decision,” Cr Smith said.
“We will certainly take their concern on board but it is far too early to know anything yet.”
Local resident Aren Kay believes council made the wrong decision.
“The acceptance of the motion would have assisted residents to feel more secure that council was representing their interests in helping them to understand and appropriately manage the situation for the best outcomes for all parties,” Ms Kay said.
“There is great risk in a matter such as this for communities to be split apart, which is often a situation favoured by commercial interests - the old ‘divide and conquer’ rule.”
Ms Kay said like herself, many local residents had chosen to live in Drake because of the peaceful and pristine environment and landscape, aspects of which are at risk if mining and energy companies are allowed to start exploring.
“Many residents had heard very frightening reports of, for example: environmental damage, water table poisoning and loss, human and animal health issues, loss of land value and of the inability to mortgage, sell or pass on their land to their children,” she said.
“Understandably [they] are very frightened as to what effects coal seam gas mining in the area will have on their lives.”
The community has held a number of information sessions at Drake, Tabulum and Ewingar.
Ms Kay said the sessions were very “peaceful” with most people eager to hear the opinions of environmental experts and geologist about the potential risks mining has to the local area.