Story Melissa Hargraves & Chris Dobney Photos Eve Jeffery
More than 50 people blockaded Metgasco’s seismic-testing site near Casino airport on Friday and dozens more turned up over the weekend to show support.
Non-violent activists, who ‘blocked the gate’ with cars as part of their action, were successful in slowing down the seismic testing.
At least nine different groups responded to the call that went out around the northern rivers following Echonetdaily’s revelation of the company’s plans on Friday.
Members of the region’s Indigenous community joined forces with landowners and environmentalists, saying CSG miner Metgasco was paying lip service to the Native Title Act (see full story, page 7).
Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson accused demonstrators of stealing $5,000 worth of seismic equipment but Echonetdaily understands no charges have been laid.
Mr Henderson identified the ‘stolen’ equipment on ABC radio this morning as holders for the cables laid along the road for use in the seismic testing. He claimed to have photographs of women holding them.
Echonetdaily witnessed several protesters pick up cable holders, which had been left at the side of the road, to investigate what they were. The cable-holders were later replaced.
Acting Inspector Andrew Synott of Casino Police told Echonetdaily that ‘at the end of the day all we are after is that no one gets hurt. The equipment that is being used is big. The mining companies do have legal rights to be where they are so they are conducting lawful activities.
‘The protesters have been very compliant and cooperative; so have Metgasco and Terrex.’
While numbers of protesters responded to the call of CSG Free Northern Rivers, many were not members of the organisation. Elly Bird of CSG Free Northern Rivers told Echonetdaily, ‘the day wasn’t a coordinated action and any offences that may have taken place were not endorsed by us’.
‘Northern rivers residents have used direct action to successfully highlight the community’s overwhelming opposition to this invasive industry in their region,’ said Adam Guise, also of CSG Free Northern Rivers.
Echonetdaily asked Acting Inspector Andrew Synott if his patrol could respond to citizens concerned about a company who are possibly damaging the environment. He responded, ‘that is not what we are here for. That is something that they would need to take up with a state MP or government agency.’
Annie Kia, co-ordinator of the Gasfield Free Community strategy in the northern rivers, said, ‘What we are seeing is an upsurge of resistance to risky gasfields. More than 60 communities have conducted their own citizen surveys, with an average response of 96 per cent saying they want to be gasfield free.
‘Of 11,590 people who have responded to the community surveys, only 89 people said ‘no’ to going gasfield free. That’s one per cent. Only three per cent of people said ‘unsure’. At what point will the government listen to the people?’