CSG Free Northern Rivers has refuted claims by Metgasco spokesperson Richard Shields yesterday that the group has prevented consultation between the company and the community.
Mr Shields told ABC’s Country Hour, ‘this is a government-backed industry. There is no doubt that we need to communicate better… to demystify this process. The onus is on us to tell people this is a safe industry.’
He then went on to accuse opponents of the industry of taking over public meetings.
‘One of the difficulties that we have is that when we have an open forum [it] gets hijacked by anti-CSG elements. They don’t allow us to have our say, which is why our consultation strategy is more focused towards small groups.’
He used the example of a Lismore meeting with planning minister Brad Hazzard last year, organised by Lismore MP Thomas George, to explain why the strategy wouldn’t work.
But the meeting wasn’t organised by Metgasco, neither were any of its staff on the panel.
CSG Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Boudicca Cerese says the company has got it wrong.
Metgasco has a very poor history of communicating with local communities and Glenugie is a case in point,’ she said.
‘Close neighbours to the Glenugie site have personally informed me that they have never been advised by the company of their drilling plans and there has been no attempt by Metgasco to provide any public information sessions to residents in the general Glenugie area.
‘The fact that Metgasco has found time to meet with the Grafton Chamber of Commerce, yet has failed to inform local residents, clearly shows where their priorities are.’
Ms Cerese described the people on the blockades as ‘genuine people whose views are being systematically ignored and trivialised by the state government and Metgasco’.
‘It is local community members, not some anonymous and nebulous “activists”, who are at the centre of the blockade against Metgasco at Glenugie,’ said Ms Cerese.
She said that the situation was replicated at Doubtful Creek, between Casino and Kyogle, where Metgasco plans to drill another core hole.
‘Locals at Kyogle tried for more than a year without any success to get Metgasco to hold a public meeting to address community concerns about coal-seam gas – they even offered to book a venue for the company.’
‘Small private meetings between Metgasco and a few invited guests chosen by the company certainly does not constitute community consultation.’