A Bentley landowner is hoping the state government will support any moves by gas mining company Metgasco to begin exploring for gas on his property.
Farmer Peter Graham, a former Lismore city councillor, signed an access agreement with Metgasco in January 2012, which covered his family’s land at Bentley.
Before any drilling could take place, thousands of protestors set up camp on land adjacent to the Graham’s property, vowing to stop any drill rigs from entering.
With reports of up 800 police set to ‘break’ the Bentley blockade, the state government announced that it was suspending Metgasco’s drilling license.
Last week, however, the NSW Supreme Court overturned that decision, describing it as unlawful.
Now Mr Graham wants Metgasco to get on with the job, arguing NSW Premier Mike Baird was supportive of the industry.
‘Throughout the state election both Labor and the Greens were saying that Mike Baird was supportive so I assume that support is still there,” Mr Graham told ABC radio.
He rejected claims that there was no gas shortage, saying NSW was buying gas from Queensland instead of developing a local industry.
Mr Graham said he was concerned that local Federal National MP Kevin Hogan and state National MP Chris Galaptis had spoken out against the industry.
‘It does concern me and I have to talk to my National Party friends.
‘I need to sit down and talk with them, and the industry needs to sit down and talk with them,’ he said.
Meanwhile, opponents of coal seam gas mining including the Greens and anti-gas groups such as Lock the Gate and Gasfree Northern Rivers, have called on the state government to restore a broad public interest test in the state’s mining and gas laws.
Greens Ballina MP Tamara Smith said despite the court victory, Metgasco should heed the ‘clear message from the community that they want a gasfield free northern rivers’.
“If Metgasco try to drill again, the community will resist and I will be standing with them,’ Ms Smith said.
‘The judgment in no way endorses Metgasco’s community consultation and the Judge goes to some effort to emphasise “it is no part of my function to assess the desirability of any of the activities of Metgasco, or the desirability of the suspension of any of those activities”.’
Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said the NSW Supreme Court decision was a ‘technical win’ for Metgasco.
‘The government may have stuffed up the cancellation process, but the substantive issue that the community has rejected unconventional gas extraction in the Northern Rivers remains,’ Mr Buckingham said,
‘The Greens will be introducing legislation to re-instate a broad public interest test to government has the power to protect communities from irresponsible mining and gas drilling.’
Gasfield Free spokesperson Dean Draper also descrbed the decision as a technical victory, saying ‘It does not mean that the suspension was not warranted – just that it was not carried out properly’.
‘Lack of consultation has been the hallmark of Metgasco’s operations in the northern rivers for many years and our community will continue to pressure government to implement legitimate measures to stop this industry from going ahead here,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Metgasco Managing Director, Peter Henderson issued a statement welcoming the court’s decision.
‘We believe that our decision to pursue legal action has been vindicated,’ he said.
‘We will be seeking compensation for the damage that has been inflicted on Metgasco and its 5,000 shareholders by the NSW Government’s unlawful decision.’
He said that the company was very keen to develop a gas business in NSW and hopes to be able to work co-operatively with the Government to achieve this outcome.
‘Before recommencing drilling activities in the northern rivers region, we would appreciate the opportunity to talk to government.’