Three north coast mayors are making a bold stand against the controversial coal-seam gas (CSG) industry trying to get a foothold in the area by spending most of today in solidarity today with anti-CSG campaigners at the Glenugie blockade campsite Grafton.
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson, Lismore’s Jenny Dowell and Tweed Shire’s Barry Longland will travel to the Glenugie site this morning to meet with campaigners and send the message that mining companies are just not welcome on the northern rivers.
Their stand follows a week of protest actions in which more than 20 people, many from local farming families, were arrested at Glenugie, and the setting up of a second blockade camp yesterday at Doubtful Creek near Kyogle where Metgasco plans more exploration drilling.
It also comes as a global spotlight was thrown on the fight against CSG in the northern rivers and around Australia by the Al Jazeera TV news network.
Lismore mayor Cr Dowell said the ‘mayors solidarity day’ also aimed to send a message of support to campaigners.
‘Good people from all walks of life are putting their lives on hold and taking a stand against CSG. The only way we will protect our communities from this incompatible industry is by standing strongly united until mining companies realise they are not welcome here,’ she said.
Many north coast communities have declared themselves CSG-Free.
A referendum in Lismore shire during last year’s local government elections saw a staggering 87 per cent of people voting against CSG, while in Kyogle recently, 90 per cent of thousands of residents surveyed also were against CSG mining.
The CSG-Free campaign continues to strongly to draw widespread support.
On the line
Cr Richardson said campaigners were ‘putting their bodies on the line so that we, the residents of the Northern Rivers, can continue to have clean water, sustainable agriculture and a vibrant tourism industry.
‘With the spectre of CSG on the horizon, these three vital economic, social and environmental attributes within our region are threatened.
‘To the campaigners, I say your actions are appreciated and honoured by the residents of Byron Shire and we thank you.’
Cr Longland said he wanted to add his support to those on the ‘front line against CSG mining in our region.
‘Our communities have expressed overwhelming opposition to any expansion of these activities and they are supported by their elected representatives who, in the case of the Tweed Shire, have adopted a ‘CSG free’ declaration for the whole shire.
The three shires, as well as Ballina shire, all adopted a stand against CSG last year.
Greens MP and former Byron mayor Jan Barham has already spent time supporting campaigners at the Glenugie camp late last year
Around 10 police officers attended the Doubtful Creek site yesterday where the mining company plans to drill a core-sample well, in anticipation of further ‘lock-ons’ to vehicles and machinery similar to actions at Glenugie, but left the peaceful campaign vigil after nearly two hours.
The 25-minute-long Al Jazeera video is called Risky Business (see it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amyJVu34G3w).
The intro to the documentary says that ‘some of the world’s largest energy giants are moving into eastern Australia and investing billions of dollars to exploit coal seam gas reserves so vast they could rewrite the world’s energy map’.
‘Coal seam gas has the potential to make Australia an energy superpower, but at what price?’ the reporter asks.
Meanwhile, a secret report has revealed that the controversial fracking technique used to extract CSG is more likely to take place during coal seam gas drilling near Sydney than in many other gas fields around Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday on a briefing between resources minister, Chris Hartcher and the chief scientist Mary O’Kane, in an unpublished report, obtained by the NSW Greeens under freedom of information which concluded that companies would likely start fracking once ‘sweet spots’ for gas have dried up.
Fracking is a drilling technique to force gas to the surface by pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground. CSG opponents say the method can cause gas leaks at the surface, crack underground aquifers, and pollute water with toxic chemicals.
The SMH also reported that mining giant AGL has reversed its position on fracking, saying the drilling technique is now back on the table as an option, after earlier ruling it out.
The company plans to drill 66 wells in western Sydney, between Campbelltown and Liverpool.
The NSW Greens said the documents showed fracking was inevitable under Sydney, if the AGL project was approved.
‘Our aquifers and geological formations are like Humpty Dumpty, once you’ve fracked it, you can’t put it back together again,’ Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said.
‘Barry O’Farrell should act now to protect land and water rather than leaving it to a future government to say sorry for the damage done by fracking for coal seam gas.”