C Ward, Ballina Shire
If you have travelled along Marom Creek Road in Meerschaum Vale in the last few years you could not fail to notice the natural beauty of the area. Canopies of rainforest trees overhang the roadside and adjoining cattle paddocks and macadamia plantations.
The area is rich with birds and native animals. Ancient ti-trees, swamp orchids and native grasses grow in the rich Tuckean wetlands. On a moonlit night a thick sea of fog blankets the valley, hence the name Meerschaum Vale, meaning ‘sea mist’.
I have been lucky enough to live here for the past 20 years and be part of the remarkable regeneration process. This has been achieved with the help of private landowners directing funds into regeneration of pockets of recovering rainforest and the hard work of local bush regenerators.
I was horrified when I found out that this piece of paradise could be under immediate threat of permanent destruction. There are plans from mining companies to extract coal-seam gas (CSG) from this area.
The threat of pollutants in our water system and airways is a frightening thought. Trucks and mining vehicles using our already-compromised roads would be untenable.
Local land and home prices could devalue. Agriculture may no longer be a viable source of income for local farmers because the waterways would be polluted with 13 or more carcinogenic chemicals.
Local residents and farmers have pledged their support for a CSG-free Meerschaum Vale. We have not only ‘locked our gates’ to mining companies but have also started to ‘lock our roads’, and will set an example for the rest of Ballina Shire.
Meerschaum Vale is just a small area of the northern rivers, but it is an integral part of our river system and a wildlife and vegetation reserve that could be ruined forever. No amount of government funding or regeneration work will ever repair the damage that will be incurred as a result of a short- term gain from CSG extraction.