Story & photos Luis Feliu Video Brendan Shoebridge
Anti-CSG campaigners have vowed to stay ‘strong and long’ after the latest blockade against the controversial coal-seam gas (CSG) industry at Doubtful Creek near Kyogle yesterday resulted in nine arrests, a woman hospitalised, a vehicle written off and two others damaged.
More than 300 protesters were herded by around 40 riot-squad police out of the path of the CSG drilling convoy of heavy vehicles as it made its way into the Eden Creek State Forest access road to the private property drilling site nearby.
The arrests included president of the national Lock the Gate alliance Drew Hutton, who sat in solidarity with blockaders on the roadway just before the trucks moved in. He was issued with a penalty notice and released.
Several blockaders just inside the forest gateway were also arrested and protest installations demolished. Protester Philippe Dupuy was removed by police from a pit and tunnel dug at the access inside the forest, which had been closed to the public by Forestry NSW officials earlier in the week.
Fellow blockader Naomi Tarrant, who had an arm encased in a concrete block at the gateway, was also arrested after her arm was broken free by police. Clare Twomey, a Knitting Nanna Against Gas who had been sitting on a three-metre bamboo tripod, was also arrested.
Earlier in the day, several men were arrested at the site, just inside the pine forest plantation.
Witnesses to the car damage incidents say a local cattle-truck driver drove at speed between the parked cars leading up to the gateway and that it was lucky no-one was injured.
The cattle truck sideswiped one vehicle before hitting another one, making it undriveable. It was later towed away. The incidents were reported to police.
One witness said the driver was ‘definitely not sympathetic to the protesters’ by the manner of his driving, just as the rig was about to approach the blockade.
Distressed owner of the worst-damaged car, Michelle Cullen from Tweed Heads, told Echonetdaily she would have to get a lift home as the car was undrivable.
A third car was damaged when the drill rig contracted to Metgasco sideswiped it as it entered the site.
At a debriefing afterwards, Gordon Fraser Quick told blockaders they would all ‘stay strong and long’ at every blockade to keep the CSG industry out of the region.
Local Githabul member Jarmbi told the crowd his tribal ancestors ‘and your ancestors were proud of you today’ for protecting the local land and water.
Mr Hutton later told Echonetdaily from his home in Brisbane that he had ‘no idea’ how much the penalty infringement notice he was given was for and said he would not be surprised if no action were taken as a result.
He said people were outraged that emergency medical care had been denied to the woman injured at the protest so the truck convoy could get in.
‘The community of the northern rivers has been protesting against exploratory drilling by Metgasco for two months, during which time close to 40 people have been arrested at two different drilling sites,’ he said.
‘When governments refuse to accept responsibility on important issues like coal-seam gas, it is up to the community to put an end to this sort of madness.’
He said he was at the blockade ‘in solidarity with the people of the northern rivers and I’m happy to be arrested alongside these brave people. There are times when the most honourable place to be is in jail.’