Twelve so-called ‘zombie’ coal seam gas exploration licenses across the state are becoming a hot topic in the upcoming Upper Hunter by-election following calls to have them cancelled alongside the Shenhua coal mine.

The NSW Parliament is scheduled to debate legislation next month which could see all expired licenses extinguished across the Upper Hunter.

But the Coalition currently hold just 46 of the Legislative Assembly’s 93 seats, meaning a failure to retain the seat could give the winner the decisive vote for or against cancelling the licenses.

Independent MP Justin Field, who brought on the legislation for debate, says Upper Hunter voters deserved to know each candidate’s position on the license issue.

“They’ve been hanging over the heads of the community for as much as a decade,” Mr Field said. 

“These [petroleum exploration licenses] expired but the Government has refused to make a final decision on their future, whether to renew them or whether to cancel them.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro reportedly told farmers from Breeza in the Liverpool Plains that the Government intended to buy out remaining licenses held by energy company Santos.

Santos also hold four expired licenses across the Upper Hunter.

Mr Field says the actions of Nationals’ members did not match up with claims they wished to see uncertainty come to an end for agricultural areas.

“Whoever wins, there’s a chance that the Government could be in a minority government after this election,” Mr Field said.

“That might mean that there’s the balance in the Upper House and the Lower House to see this bill become law.”