Lock the Gate Northern Rivers says that Richmond Valley Council’s (RVC) ‘position statement’ released yesterday completely fails to represent the majority of the community, who are overwhelmingly opposed to coal-seam gas.
Yesterday Echonetdaily revealed the council had introduced the controversial statement through the secretive guise of a mayoral minute.
Council waited until after the public-access session to hand out the motion to people still in the chambers and there was no opportunity for the public to comment on the document prior to its being voted on.
The position statement begins, ‘The Richmond Valley Council accepts that coal-seam gas mining is happening in the local government area, will continue to happen and that this activity will increase over time and a workable collaboration is necessary’.
It calls on CSG-free activists ‘to work with all parties to find solutions to issues and a means of cohabitation rather than blanket opposition [to coal-seam gas]’.
Locally based Richmond Valley Group Against Gas (RVGAG) has slammed the statement as another example of the council’s arrogance, secrecy and subservience to the gas industry.
‘The positioning statement is largely a weaseling statement and has been issued with no community consultation whatsoever, yet council has the arrogance to make a wish-list of what the council wants from state government, the industry and CSG opponents,’ said Eric van Beurden of RVGAG.
‘The requests are so undeliverable they are patently silly,’ he said.
He added that grassroots surveys conducted in the Richmond Valley show support for keeping the valley free from coal-seam gas operations is currently running at over 80 per cent, with ‘Gasfield Free Communities’ already declared in Tatham, Greenridge, Bungawalbyn, Whiporie and Dobies Bight /Dyraaba.
‘To suggest that local communities should “cohabit with” rather than oppose the coal-seam gas industry insults the overwhelming desire of residents to ensure that our food-producing land, natural areas and water resources are not placed at risk, and that public health, and existing agricultural and tourism industries are protected from an unsafe, short-term industry.’
‘No-one wants to live in or visit an industrialised landscape, so to have council suggest that residents should simply accept a polluting industry in their backyards is a slap in the face of democracy,’ concluded Mr van Beurden.
Passing the responsibility
‘In this statement Richmond Valley Council effectively washes its hands of its duty to represent the interests and concerns of local residents by passing the responsibility to all other stakeholders,’ said Lock the Gate spokesperson, Boudicca Cerese.
‘The requests [made] of the state government in Council’s position statement clearly highlight how the government’s land-use policies fail to implement any meaningful constraints or controls on this unsafe industry.’
She said that the state government had repeatedly refused to listen to local governments on this issue and it was unlikely that they were going to start listening now.
‘While the position statement makes a damning indictment of past behaviours from Metgasco, any new request from Council to lift their game seems unlikely to achieve success when their obviously close relationship with the company to date has failed to hold them to account.
‘In recent weeks this company has vilified local residents exercising their right to protest in the Clarence Valley LGA and attacked the democratic voice of community opposition in the Lismore LGA, so we would be very surprised if they are going to take these voluntary requests from RVC seriously.
‘Overall this statement makes it clear that once again it is left to communities to take peaceful direct action to defend what is most precious to them because most elected representatives at all levels of government are failing to do so,’ Ms Cerese said.