Story & photos Melissa Hargraves
Fourth-generation northern rivers resident and local musician Davey Bob Ramsey was arrested for trespassing yesterday as he chained himself at dawn to a bulldozer being used by Metgasco to build a new coal-seam gas (CSG) wastewater holding pond.
Police Rescue was called in to detach Davey before he was led by police to a paddy wagon and driven to Casino Police Station to be formally charged.
At least 60 supporters set up at the entrance to the Pollocks Rd property, in peaceful protest against the construction of a new ‘temporary’ wastewater pond and in support of Davey’s desperate action.
Frustration is growing among locals as the NSW state government, which ban evaporation ponds, continues to allow construction – and licensing for up to five years – of these holding ponds in areas that include farms, floodplains and wetlands.
SCU law lecturer with and prominent activism educator Aidan Ricketts told Echonetdaily, ‘This is an ongoing fiasco with how Metgasco are dealing with their toxic wastewater. A previous solution was to put it into the Casino municipal sewerage, which is unlawful, and they have since been fined.
‘They want to go in and get the CSG but have no suitable plans for what they will do with the toxic waste.’
Aidan said he thought the non-violent action was a success.
‘The day went very well, it was well organised and disciplined. The group maintained confidentiality with the action despite Facebook and all the other things that can go wrong.
‘There was a lock-on person with a single arrest for an effective action. The police liaison went well, the police are relaxed and there have been no flared tempers.’
Aidan added, ‘This day is like training in its own way.’
Adam Guise, a full-time anti-CSG campaigner, took the role of police liaison and supported Davey, particularly through his lock-off process. He said the police were professional in their duties and took precautionary measures.
After the arrest Adam told Echonetdaily, ‘Davey is feeling pretty courageous for what he went through and that he is doing what he believes in; he cares for the region’.
It was Adam’s first time in this role, which he described as ‘challenging’.
‘It allowed me to interact with the police and let them know that we are all reasonable people that care about our region. The police were great. I’m inspired by the professionalism of this movement and the caring of the people.’
Jenny Leunig, Yvonne Hartman, Joyce Byrne, Clare Twomey and Robyn Stewart are some of the ‘nannas’ who make up the Knitting Nannas Against Gas (KNAG). They had a ‘knit in’ on Tuesday afternoon outside the Metgasco Casino offices and were part of yesterday’s peaceful action.
Clare told Echonetdaily that they have received a lot of interest.
‘[Byron] Mayor Jan Barham is interested in joining after the elections!’
A Metgasco operations manager declined to be questioned, referring Echonetdaily to the company’s main office.
Ian Gaillard of Lock the Gate Alliance – Northern Rivers told Echonetdaily the action was ‘a good start’.
‘The purpose of today has been to expose the fact that these are evaporation ponds and what a farce it is that the state government and a company can suddenly call them holding ponds.
‘Let us be aware that it is not just Metgasco; there are a multitude of companies who have and will have these toxic ponds in the northern rivers.’
There are already five so-called ‘holding ponds’ in the area with more in the pipeline. The Lock the Gate Alliance argues that the pond effectively ‘functions the same as an evaporation pond and has the same risks, including pond overflow, liner failure and seepage into alluvial aquifers’.
Ian continued, ‘This work is being done in anticipation of receiving a full-time production licence’.
More non-violent actions are planned at the site. To stay informed on upcoming actions go to http://www.csgfreenorthernrivers.org.
– Additional photography Peah Barnyngoz