Premier Gladys Berejiklian has rebuffed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s calls for NSW to open areas of the state to gas production that are currently off-limits, declaring the state’s policy “will not change”.
A day after Mr Turnbull renewed his attack on NSW and Victoria over restrictions on gas mining, Ms Berejiklian said the Commonwealth “can say what it likes, but we need a national approach”.
On Wednesday Mr Turnbull announced the government had reached an agreement with Santos, Origin and Shell to provide enough gas to cover a predicted shortfall in 2018 and 2019 by increasing supply to the domestic market.
He called on NSW and Victoria to lift bans on gas production.
The Prime Minister has also urged the NSW government to approve a Santos application to drill production wells in the Pilliga State Forest, which is being considered under planning assessment rules.
Ms Berejiklian said the state government had clearly identified areas where gas exploration can and cannot occur, following a review by the NSW Chief Scientist and “community consultation”.
She highlighted the NSW policy of protecting prime agricultural land and water catchment areas from gas mining.
The government has also imposed a two-kilometre buffer zone around residential areas and indicated it will not permit gas activity on the NSW north coast.
“We are not changing our policy,” she said. “I want to make that clear. Our policy stands, our policy is solid.”
Ms Berejiklian said a national approach to gas supply was the best way to reduce prices.
The comments come as the NSW government prepares to fight byelections in Cootamundra and Murray on October 14, including against the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party, which defeated it at last year’s Orange byelection.
On Thursday former Nationals leader Troy Grant – who lost his position after the byelection defeat – attacked the Shooters over the gas issue, accusing it of having an “open-slather” policy.
Mr Grant, who is Police Minister, challenged the party to “come clean with the farming community that you allegedly represent. You want an open-slather policy for coal seam gas”.
But Shooters MLC Robert Borsak accused Mr Grant of being “full of hot air”.
He said the party’s policy had not changed for years and included supporting the ban on coal seam gas exploration on prime agricultural land and in areas that threaten the water supply or water table.
The party also believed landowners should have the final say about whether drilling can occur on their land, and be entitled to royalties.
Asked on what basis Mr Grant believed the party had an “open-slather policy”, a spokeswoman said he had no further comment.