The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Metgasco in its battle with the state government over suspension of its Bentley licence.
The government’s decision to override the licence was ‘not made according to law’, according to Justice Richard Button.
He also ruled that the government pay all of Metgasco’s costs.
The company’s licence to explore for unconventional gas at its Rosella well near Lismore was suspended by the state government last May following sustained and overwhelming local opposition to the proposed drilling operation.
Resources minister Anthony Roberts suspended the exploration licence after concerns the company had not undertaken ‘genuine and effective consultation with the community’.
But the company said the government was acting outside its powers.
It also claimed the government ‘did not follow the procedures defined in the Act or afford Metgasco procedural fairness’ and says that the decision to suspend the drilling activity based on Metgasco’s community consultation ‘could not have been made rationally’.
Legislative reform required
CSG Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Dean Draper attended today’s hearing, which he described as ‘a disappointing outcome’.
‘If Metgasco are successful in their demand for compensation, more public money is going to be thrown at a dangerous and unpopular industry,’ he said
‘This mess is a result of the government’s failure to act decisively to create watertight legislative means to cancel the northern rivers unconventional gas licences. There is now an urgent need for new legislation to enable the government to cancel mining titles on public interest grounds, without compensation, and to make the northern rivers permanently gasfield free, as the community wants.
‘The people of the northern rivers have overwhelmingly demanded full cancellation of all gas licences in our region. We have declared ourselves gasfield free by direct community democracy. We shouldn’t have to blockade to deliver protection for the region: the Government just needs to do their job and represent the people.
‘The northern rivers community demands legislative reform to enable the cancellation of gas licences across the region. The least the state government can do is act in good faith with the will of the people, and make the northern rivers permanently gasfield free.’ he said.