Councillors AGL tour offer

Councillors AGL tour offer

By  DAMON CRONSHAW

July 18, 2013, 10:30 p.m.

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WARNING: Cr James Ryan says councillors should be wary of hospitality offers from vested interests

GAS company AGL Energy has invited Cessnock councillors on a tour of a coal seam gas field and offered to pay for the bus trip and lunch.

In a letter to councillors, dated July 17,  the company said it wanted to ‘‘show you what a producing coal seam gas field looks like’’.

Additionally it would ‘‘give you the opportunity to speak with local property owners who have AGL gas wells on their land’’.

The proposed date for the tour of Camden Gas Plant was August 10

‘‘AGL is happy to meet the cost of the bus and whether it changes your view on coal seam gas or not, it is important to have all the facts and as much information as possible,’’ the letter said.

Cessnock councillor James Ryan said it would be ‘‘totally inappropriate’’ to accept the offer.

Cr Ryan said it was ‘‘fair enough for councillors to inform themselves’’.

‘‘But one of the dangers is councillors go on guided tours by developers, or in this case a mining company, and they only get to see what the company wants them to see,’’ Cr Ryan said.

‘‘Councillors should be giving equal access to environment groups that are telling the other side of the story.’’

AGL Energy said in a statement it ‘‘offered to provide transport and lunch on the proposed tour of Camden, which can take up to five hours, as a goodwill gesture and added convenience’’.

‘‘However, councillors interested in viewing our operations by their own mode of transport and not participating in the group lunch are equally welcome,’’ the statement said.

‘‘We regularly undertake tours of our projects to raise awareness, increase understanding and encourage participants to ask questions first hand.’’

As reported yesterday, councillors voted to defer a decision on a report from council staff stating coal seam gas activities were incompatible with the local area.

Labor deputy mayor Graham Smith moved the deferral until the NSW chief scientist Professor Mary O’Kane released an industry review.

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