Photos Eve Jeffery, David Lowe, Stephanie Shoebridge and Susie Forster
An Ettrick local of more than 50 years held a ‘pop up’ picnic with a concert in the paddocks of his property on Saturday morning. The successful event attracted more than six hundred people and a stellar cast of performers.
One police car showed up at the entrance to the property and was asked by traffic controllers to park off the road for safety reasons. There were no arrests on the day.
After the event more than 200 people walked to the rig site and were able to gain access (more details, pictures, on page 7).
‘Don’s Party’ was hosted by Don Knight as a response to the direct threat from coal-seam gas (CSG) mining to his and surrounding properties.
The Doubtful Creek test-drilling site adjoins Don’s farm, where protesters are now camping after the nearby state forest was closed to public access.
Mr Knight has already been affected by the lighting and noise from the site and has genuine concerns about water, soil and air pollution.
A lagoon on his property, which provides the only water for his stock, is fed from a creek that runs through the test site.
‘I am very disappointed. Already we have bright lights shining at us at night and the noise from the site comes straight across. That noise goes 24/7,’ Don told Echonetdaily.
‘We have had no consultation from Metgasco or my neighbour, only a glossy leaflet in the mailbox.
‘When your assets get threatened you have to fight. There are others sitting around with their heads in a bucket of sand; they will end up losing their properties if they don’t fight.
‘[The owners of] one property near here paid millions for their farm and invested a lot of time and money into it. Once this mining gets up and going, or even now, it will be worth nothing. They will be paying back all this money for nothing.’
Don has concerns about drops in his own land values.
‘I have been advised from council verbally that land values will go down. I’m not sure whether rates will too, but we will not be able to sell out.
‘If I have to sell this to get into an old people’s home (which I don’t want to), I won’t get enough for it.’
Performers sing out
Nick Hanlon coordinated the event on Don’s behalf and drew a fine bunch of regional performers to the event.
Xavier Rudd suffered a minor injury to his ‘stomp’ foot at the site but did not let the incident prevent him from performing.
‘I’m here to support all the good folks who are rising up against CSG mining in the northern rivers and emphasise the collective consciousness that is growing in Australia.
‘Our government is hopeless, ruthless and toxic in terms of protecting our land. So much land has been ruined in 200 years; so much culture has been devastated.
‘Compulsory acquisition still rings true; it happened in the dark ages and is still being used today. Land grabs no matter what.
‘We are all custodians now [who] need to pull together and be part of that struggle that Aboriginal people adopted. We are all in the same pool really.’
Ash Grunwald performed at the event and made it clear that he is not immersed politically but has real concerns about CSG mining, particularly in the northern rivers.
He told Echonetdaily, ‘There is an ethical component to this and a million things that are wrong about it but it is also [about] self-interest. This is the area that I hope my kids will grow up. It would be horrible to see it turned into an industrial wasteland.
Ash spends a lot of time on the road and is concerned that there are still people unaware of this industry.
‘I don’t have to travel to find people who are unaware: there are people in the northern rivers who still don’t know!
‘I have been like that about different things before so I can’t get too high and mighty about it, but it does surprise me.’
Ash believes that community awareness is growing quickly and notes the unusual alliances forming out of this resistance.
‘I never thought I would say this, but what Alan Jones is saying is helpful to the cause.’
Musicians are approached to lend themselves to many campaigns.
‘It is really tough because you like to do everything… I’m happy that my contribution isn’t digging holes; mine is fun and easy so I am honoured that I can do [what] I can. When it comes to opposing CSG, I am there. It’s good to not be too selfish with your music.
Andrea Soler lent her music to the day and told Echonetdaily that ‘these are early days. I think all of Australia is under threat. This is my fourth time out here. This is half an hour from my house and there are plans for wells five minutes from my home.
‘I moved out here for the pristine environment and the values of this community. To have this come in is so invasive in so many ways, its ecocide at the highest level.’
Surfers’ wave of support
There was a strong representation of surfers at the event. Echonetdaily caught up with Dave Rastovich from Surfers for Cetaceans, who camped at the site and witnessed the pervasiveness of the light and noise coming from the drilling site.
‘That light is immense; imagine a thousand of those, that’s like a city.’
Coastal communities will be affected from CSG mining and Dave feels it is important to show support to these actions.
‘You need to work from the root to the fruit… You need to come out to the sites and get a grasp on what’s actually happening.
‘The Glenugie site is right behind Angourie, the surfing spiritual centre of Australia, an area where you’re not allowed any contests or commercial events as it is a very special place. That drill site is very coastal. That is what fired us up.
‘Look at the contaminated water at Gladstone: surfers, or anyone who swims in the ocean, are the canaries in the coal mine with environmental issues on the coastline. If there are any contaminants in that water you will get them. It goes into your ear, nose and throat and you are crook.’
‘This movement is an amazing unifier. We are all in this together. When such a systemic failure is happening where people want something and the governing body goes against the will of the people. That is cause for concern no matter what your interest is.
‘Water is a central part of this… there is concern when there are threats of toxifying water supplies and destroying the livelihood that all stems from clean water for the farmers, surfers, tourism, all of us.’
The drill site was in full view of the event, which gave some attendees a sense of defeat.
‘I have that feeling of hope because that is a sustaining emotion along this journey, you need to feel hopeful to be able to continue. The fact that there is so much grassroots community engagement is encouraging.’