HUNTER BULGA METHANE GAS EXPLORATORY PROJECT

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries, Minister for Energy, Minister for Mineral Resources, and Minister for State Development. Is the Minister aware of concerns of the Hunter-Bulga Gas Action Group in relation to the proposal by Sydney Gas Ltd for the Hunter-Bulga Methane Gas Exploratory project? Is the Minister aware this action group has expressed concerns about the failure of Sydney Gas to consult with local communities? Why has the department failed to respond when these concerns were raised with them? Is the Minister aware that approval was given in early May for five core holes to be drilled without a meeting of the Bulga Coal Bed Methane Exploration Community Consultative Community being held since, and the next meeting is not scheduled until late next month? What action is the department taking to ensure that local communities are consulted in relation to this project?

The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I thank the honourable member for his question. I think that is the first I have ever received from him, which is pretty good.

The Hon. Michael Gallacher: It won't be the last.

The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: That is good. In relation to this particular exploration effort by Sydney Gas, I have had representations and a number of meetings with community groups. In fact, Mr David Clarke, former chairman of Macquarie Bank, who was a member of the community group, has been to see me.

[Interruption]

No, not the Hon. David Clarke; David Clarke from the Macquarie Bank, the powerful one—more powerful than the other Mr Clarke I have met. Mr Clarke and some community members have been to see me. In response to that, I have put some proposals about the consultative committee. I am unaware of the proposal for five core holes to be drilled without a meeting of the consultative committee.

The Hon. Michael Gallacher: It looks like you are not being told everything that is happening within your staff or they are not responding.

The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I do not think I am required to know every piece of information that occurs across this grand State. We have set up the process in relation to this. We are very aware of these types of community campaigns, following Yarramalong Valley and the difficulties experienced there by the former Sydney Gas Company. A process is in place. I will see what has actually happened and the Leader of the Opposition can tell Mr Clarke—not the Hon. David Clarke, the other Mr Clarke—and members of the community that I am happy to meet with them on any occasion, as I have in the past.