Deb Whitley, dubbed The Hero of Glenugie by CSG activists for her brave action in chaining onto a Metgasco truck, pictured with Community Watch’s Philippe Dupuy at yesterday’s protest. Photo David Lowe
As temperatures rose yesterday so did activity against Metgasco’s CSG test site at Glenugie.
Police arrested local woman Deb Whitley, who locked onto a truck at the site in a bold show of defiance.
A clearly rattled Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson has described the protesters as ‘vigilantes’ and claimed on ABC radio this morning that one activist had issued a Metgasco employee with a death threat.
Up to 80 local residents and supporters from across the Clarence Valley gathered yesterday to defend the ‘embattled community’, according to Glenugie local, Sarah Fletcher.
‘Metgasco is trying to ride roughshod over the wishes of the local community. We do not want to see our beautiful home opened up for gas production.’
Police at the scene towed away one of the vehicles and ‘commenced negotiations to facilitate the works that are to take place,’ according to police media.
Fifty-five-year-old Glenugie resident Deb Whitley defended the self-described ‘radical action’ of chaining herself underneath the truck because of the fact that her land and home are under threat from coal-seam gas mining, which she has no say in refusing.
‘My home has always been the one constant in my life. It is my safety, my sanctuary – this industry threatens all of this,’ she said.
‘With my land I have choices to create an income and sustainable life for my future and now this is uncertain for me.
‘The coal-seam gas industry threatens our health and without good health we have nothing. I’ve always considered myself lucky but now I don’t know.’
Police rescue were brought in to remove her and she is expected to face charges for public order offences.
‘These exploration activities are one of the first steps in the potential wholesale gasfield industrialisation of the surrounding areas,’ said Lynette Eggins from Clarence Valley Alliance Against CSG.
‘Residents from across the Clarence Valley are standing together in a peaceful protest to make it clear to Metgasco and the government that we do not want this polluting industry in our region,’ she said.
But they will have a fight on their hands – police have indicated they are prepared to take sides with Metgasco, which in turn is not backing down.
Duty officer from Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command, Inspector Joanne Reid, said, ‘police are there to facilitate a peaceful protest, but must also enforce the law’.
‘The large majority of protesters operate within the confines of the law, and we would urge all the protesters to exercise common sense and do the same.
‘When our directions are repeatedly ignored we have no option but to take action,’ Inspector Reid said.
Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson this morning accused the group of undertaking ‘extreme measures’.
‘These people do have a choice. The government’s not ignoring them, nor is Metgasco. We’ve been through very thorough review processes and approvals and can demonstrate our business is safe, and that’s why Minister Hazzard is in the area today,’ he told ABC radio this morning.