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Byron Shire
August 3, 2021

Northern Rivers activists greet UNESCO

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UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) delegates arrived in Gladstone last Wednesday after being alerted that a major LNG (liquid natural gas) export and CSG (coal-seam gas) processing facility was being constructed within the World Heritage Area of the Great Barrier Reef.

A contingent from the northern rivers region drove to Gladstone to meet the delegation and to participate in activism over the massive port development that threatens the once-pristine area.

Wren McLean of Mullumbimby told Echonetdaily she ‘spontaneously put work and the rest of my life on hold last week’ and travelled up by bus with 11 others as part of the Nimbin Environment Centre. Security, of course, was tight.

‘MP Tony Burke personally escorted UNESCO delegates and his department kept them on a strict timetable,’ says Ms McLean.

Controlled operation

‘It was quite a controlled operation. At the airport we held up signs and banners in French saying “help us” and quite a few Gladstone locals were also present.’

Another highlight, she says, was welcoming the arrival of June Norman, a 71-year-old woman who walked 500km from Tara to Gladstone and arrived on the same day as UNESCO.

Ms Norman says on www.sixdegrees.org.au [http:www.sixdegrees.org.au], ‘I feel my generation is allowing this destruction to happen at a rate that is out of control. I feel responsible to do what I can to stop this madness and influence our government to consider the long-term impacts of what it is permitting.’

The walk was part of the Friends of the Earth and Lock the Gate Alliance campaign and endorsed by Footprints for Peace. Upon Wednesday’s arrival, Ms McLean says groups of activists set up in the town centre and handed out coal-seam gas information and gave presentations, did face-painting and played music.

‘One hundred per cent of people that I stopped had serious concerns about fish kills, cyanide leaks, acid sulphate soils and indeed the demise of the entire reef ecosystem.’

Concerns for ecosystem

‘A medical doctor from Brisbane also gave a talk and said, “If the industry is not kept in check by governments, then they take risks with our lives and resources. Industrial poisoning is a long-term thing…”. He gave an example at Mount Isa, where the government knows industry is polluting at twice the recommended doses.

‘On Thursday actions were held outside the offices of CSG companies,’ says Ms McLean. ‘One man had a megaphone and was saying “What mongrel bastard companies” they are.

‘We witnessed some horrific things while there – evidence of the extremely adverse effects on human, marine and environmental health of the dredging, dumping, clearing and pollution already underway.

‘The trip bought to reality the extremity of scale of industrialisation planned for the series of fossil fuel export ports along the Great Barrier Reef coast.’

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