Moncton councillors have blocked oil and gas explorationinthe Turtle Creek watershed despite the province's urgings, demanding better protection for the city's main reservoir.

The city has denied access to the watershed, even though theprovincial government has been trying to convince the councillorsthat testing for oil and gas wouldn't do any harm.

On Monday night, fivetop provincial civil servantstravelledfrom Fredericton to tell the council about legislative safeguards meant to protectthe water supply.

Sam McEwan,the director of minerals and petroleum development for the Department of Natural Resources, said there are nine such laws restricting the actions of oil and gas companies.

They're meant toprovide "balance between the environment and the development and the resource," he said.

Why does province persist when city opposed, councillor asks

But MonctonCoun. Brian Hicks questioned why the provincial bureaucratslike the ideaeven though city staff vehemently oppose it.

"The land is so sensitive that a mother or father couldn't take their son out to put a fishing pole in the water," Hicks said.

In October, city councillors narrowly voted to allow an Alberta company conduct seismic testing in the watershed.

Coun. Pierre Boudreausaid that's where the testing will stop. "Under no circumstances couldI condone any exploration in our watershed."

Coun.Katherine Barnes agreed. "I think the message you can take back is, we really don't want to see any further exploration of any kind take place because our water is extremely important to us."

Councillors must determine the best way to protect the watershed and have asked the city's environment committee to report back with suggestions.