Coal-seam gas miner Peter Henderson, boss of Metgasco, told an invitation-only meeting in Lismore on Monday that ‘about 300’ farmers had signed agreements to allow the proposed Lions Way pipeline to pass through their land.
The pipeline is critical to Metgasco’s plans to develop a gas-mining hub centred on Casino exporting gas over the border for power generation in Queensland.
The meeting was organised by Lismore Nationals MP Thomas George, whose son Stewart George works for Metgasco as a land manager. Echonetdaily understands the role involves visiting farmers with the company’s documents and persuading them to sign with Metgasco.
Stewart George is also a Casino councillor and a board member of Rous Water.
The meeting for representatives of councils, CSG companies and community organisations to meet the NSW Trade and Investment executive director of minerals resources, Brad Mullard. But an attendee at the meeting told Echonetdaily that ‘he just listened and smiled and talked scientific jargon’.
‘He said they haven’t got one bit of evidence that cross-contamination of aquifers has occurred in Australia,’ said Lesley McQueen, the invited representative of Kyogle GAG.
‘Mr George didn’t voice how he felt personally. He kept on asking everyone else, saying we need to take everybody’s comments into account,’ she said.
Ms McQueen was critical of the way the meeting was held and said she felt the group was manipulated into excluding demonstrators from being able to listen at the back of the room.
She said when the group entered the room Mr George initially left the door open, saying something to the effect of ‘do you think we can have a discussion with all these people around?’
‘A woman from NSW Farmers Federation stood up and said she’d prefer if it could be kept to the existing group as it was hard to have a discussion with even 30 people.
‘He said “let’s have a vote”. Effectively it was just a few nods of heads.’
Ms McQueen said one invitee left the room in protest.
Mr George went out to confront the crowd but when he saw that one of them was videoing the proceedings he refused to talk with them.
The videographer, Dean Draper, told Echonetdaily he felt personally excluded from the meeting.
‘I spoke at the Alstonville Senate Inquiry meeting as a landholder. [Mr George] had invited a number of other speakers from that meeting so I contacted his office and asked to be invited. He refused, saying it’s for representatives of groups. I said I was representative of Casino Group Against Gas and he said it was out of his area.
‘Yet the Casino mayor was invited and so was Metgasco.’