A packed gallery at last night’s Richmond Valley Council meeting erupted into applause when councillors emphatically passed a motion opposing unconventional gas mining and fracking in the shire.
The move, which followed impassioned pleas by Richmond Valley residents, brings Richmond Valley into line with all other north coast councils which have declared their opposition to the coal seam gas (CSG) industry getting a foothold in the area.
Mayor Ernie Bennett and Cr Col Sullivan were the only two to vote against the move in the 5-2 vote.
The news of the turnaround in council’s stand on gas mining has spread quickly, given Richmond Council gave the Bentley blockade protest against Metgasco’s drilling plans a hard time with threats over illegal camping and its general support for the miner against the wishes of locals.
The reversal in council’s previous position follows the June meeting when Cr Robert Mustow received unanimous support for council to review the policy.
Deputy mayor Sandra Humphrys accepted Gasfield Free declarations from the community of Codrington, following their celebration on the weekend after 93 per cent of Codrington voted to remain Gasfield Free.
Richmond Valley resident Eric van Beurden, who was at the meeting, told Echonetdaily it was heartening to see that council has listened to locals’ concerns and ‘taken a stand in support of the stated wishes of the vast majority of their constituents’.
‘Several speakers presented summary results from all community surveys in the shire at the meeting, showing that between 85 per cent and 93 per cent of Richmond Valley residents want to remain Gasfield Free,’ Dr van Beurden said.
‘Councillors at last night’s meeting spoke about changing their position from one of neutrality to one of opposition based on several things, including widespread community opposition and information now available on the risks of unconventional gas mining,’ he said.
Dean Draper, Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson, said ‘this is a watershed moment for local communities in the Richmond Valley and sees Richmond Valley Council join other councils across the northern rivers who have stated their opposition to this unsafe industry’.
‘The turn-around in council’s position is a direct response to the dedicated actions of local community members who have been tireless in their efforts to raise awareness about the risks of this industry and seek support from council to represent their concerns,’ Mr Draper said.
Last night’s resolution read:
‘That the Richmond Valley Council believes that given its current understandings and existing knowledge base around the unconventional gas industry, the potential effects on the environment, the uncertainty surrounding fracking and the strongly expressed community views against the unconventional gas industry that it cannot support the development of the unconventional gas industry in this local government area at this time. Further to this, that Council affirms its strong opposition to fracking in any form.’
(For vote: Crs Hayes, Humphrys, Morrissey, Mustow, Simpson).