Casino Aerodrome is to be closed to all air traffic, including emergency services, for four hours in the middle of the day tomorrow so that Metgasco can conduct seismic testing on the airfield.
Lock the Gate Northern Rivers (LTGNR) and other local anti-CSG groups have organised a blockade of the testing site, with protesters already onsite this morning.
‘There are a number of people at different gates blockading the spots the seismic line is going through – from Springrove Road to the airport – over the next couple of days,’ LTGNR spokesperson Ian Gaillard told Echonetdaily from the protest this morning.
‘Representatives of a company called Terrex, which is conducting the testing on behalf of Metgasco, were blockaded in their Lismore motel room earlier today.
‘There is a very large contingent of police here and things are moving very quickly,’ Mr Gaillard added before ringing off.
The closure of the airport was confirmed in an email sent to aerodrome users yesterday by a Richmond Valley Council engineer.
‘I wish to confirm that council needs to close the aerodrome to enable Metgasco to have continuity of their testing process. This involves running cords… from land parcels either side of the aerodrome. They will not be performing seismic work on the aerodrome pavement itself,’ the email read.
The Rural Fire Service uses the airport for aircraft attending bushfires in the region. They have also been advised they will not have access to the aerodrome for part of the day tomorrow.
Dr Richard Gates, president of nearby Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome, has questioned the impact of gas drilling in and around the airfield.
‘It would be an unfortunate mix to be putting gas, which is explosive in nature, in proximity to aviation fuel and the resultant risk of aircraft accident,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘What happens if something goes wrong and there are gas leaks in the area of the airfield?’
He also queried whether Richmond Valley councillors had even been informed of the testing, saying it was inappropriate the email announcing the decision should have been sent by a junior staffer.
‘It reflects poorly on the way Richmond Valley Council does business to give airfield users a mere 24 hours’ notice,’ he said.
The closure comes despite legal information received by the Northern Region of Councils (NOROC) to the effect that councils have the right to shut out coal-seam-gas explorers from council land, particularly if it has been ‘improved’.
The definition of ‘improvement’ is known to include roads and would almost certainly include an aerodrome.
Other councils including Lismore, Ballina and Tweed have all taken steps to prevent CSG miners from accessing their land but Richmond Valley Council (RVC) has yet to do so.
It also confirms what critics have called an unduly close relationship between Metgasco and RVC.
Earlier this year RVC was revealed to have allowed Metgasco to dump CSG wastewater into the Casino sewer despite it being in contravention of EPA regulations.