STAKEHOLDERS had been given only two days to comment to a draft NSW aquifer interference policy in what the NSW Opposition has described as an "absolute sham".
Opposition acting coal seam gas exploration and extraction spokesman Mick Veitch claimed the O'Farrell Government had been caught out trying to exclude regional communities from having a say on the policy.
He said the government had distributed the document secretly to select stakeholders late last week on the condition they didn't share it.
"This is a cop-out to communities and industries that are concerned about coal seam gas exploration and extraction," he said.
"Instead of facing criticism from the community and industry groups, at 6pm last Friday the Government sent its draft policy to a chosen few and asked for them to make detailed comment by close of business yesterday.
"This policy was meant to be about protecting prime agricultural land, giving land holders a say and protecting our precious aquifers for generations to come."
He said there were a number of key questions the Government must answer;
• Does this new draft aquifer interference policy allow for CSG activity to bypass an aquifer interference approval process?
• Will the Office of Water play any role in approving CSG drilling operations?
• Will it be easier for a CSG proponent to drill into a water aquifer than a farmer or an irrigator?
• Will hydraulic fracking be exempt from the aquifer approval process?
• Will public consultation be required by CSG proponents before they drill into a water aquifer?
"Communities right across NSW are concerned about CSG developments and they made hundreds of submissions to the previous draft aquifer policy," Mr Veitch said.
"Why have they now been excluded from the consultation process on this new aquifer policy?
"The O'Farrell Government is avoiding due diligence on this issue; they must make this new draft plan public and allow for a legitimate consultation process - this is too important."