The owner of a 4WD sideswiped by the drilling rig truck at Doubtful Creek reports it to police soon afterwards.
As 18 anti coal-seam gas (CSG) protesters arrested at the Glenugie blockade last month face Grafton court today, around 30 more protesters were holding up mining-operation vehicles at the frontline in the battle against CSG at Doubtful Creek near Kyogle this morning.
The tense stand-off at the blockade includes a ‘lock-on’ involving a man attached to a device fixed to the ground at the access gate to the site.
Concrete trucks sent to install concrete casing have been stopped by local residents staging a peaceful sit-in in front of them.
A police squad car is there but onlookers say the locked-on protester will have to be removed by police rescue squad when it arrives.
Police reinforcements were expected anytime at the site where protesters have dug in to stop the controversial mining industry getting a foothold in the northern rivers.
A CSG-Free Northern Rivers spokesperson said around 30 protesters at the Doubtful Creek were holding up three trucks carrying concrete pumps, water and concrete and two Metgasco escort vehicles.
Spokesperson Aidan Ricketts told Echonetdaily this morning that ‘local communities will not accept having CSG imposed upon them by force or in haste.
‘The state government and CSG companies are acting in concert to push this industry on NSW at a breakneck pace and without adequate environmental safeguards. This follows a similar flawed implementation in Queensland revealed in today’s Courier Mail.
‘The United Nations, the federal government and numerous scientists have warned of irreversible harms associated with CSG yet the NSW government seeks to rush ahead without looking at the science.
‘Communities are asking “Why the hurry”? There is no need for this unseemly haste by government.
‘The truth is the industry is panicked is being rapidly overtaken by renewable technologies and overseas competition. CSG is unsafe, unviable and we do not need it,’ Mr Ricketts said.
Protesters at Doubtful Creek have been prevented from entering the Eden Creek State Forest where the access is to the drilling property goes through, after the state government closed it to the public last week.
One protester, the spokesperson said, has already been issued with a $2,500 on-the-spot fine for entering the forest.
Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity, a large group of people are expected to attend the Grafton court hearing to show their support for those charged at Glenugie, including one held in custody for over a week.
They were arrested during a large police operation, which included riot and dog squads, used to break the anti-CSG blockade there on January 7 which facilitated access for a drilling rig to the Metgasco exploration site.
One of them, John Wyborn, of south Grafton, has been in Kempsey jail for more than a week following his second arrest at the controversial site.
A CSG-Free Northern Rivers spokesperson said Mr Wyborn chose to refuse bail and go to prison in order to draw attention to the ‘grave injustice of coal seam gas mining being imposed by force against the wishes of the local community’.
The court appearances will be followed by a concert for a CSG-free Clarence Valley at Grafton Market Square from 2pm-8pm.
The spokesperson said actions to oppose the CSG industry’s ‘invasion’ of the northern rivers would continue wherever the mining company tried to start drilling.
Last Thursday, more arrests took place at Doubtful Creek near Kyogle, where the drilling rig used at Glenugie was escorted by police into the new exploration site.
Residents and supporters are maintaining the vigil at the campsite there where a protest concert was held yesterday.
Meanwhile, police and the government have refused to reveal the cost to date of the massive policing operation, which has resulted in almost 30 arrests so far.
Unlike in Queensland where the CSG mining companies pay police for security, the cost for Metgasco’s security is being borne by taxpayers, with estimates already exceeding $200,000.
Up to 60 police and specialist squads from around the state have been used at the two sites to protect the drilling rig convoy.
That sparked an outcry from locals who say taxpayer-funded police resources are being used for the mining company operations instead of community safety when the region cries out for more police.
A spokesperson for police minister Michael Gallacher told Echonetdaily the costs were an ‘operational’ matter and one for police to comment on, but Chief Inspector Col Green of Police Media said he did ‘not have the costing’ but that ‘appropriate numbers of police will be deployed to ensure the safety of protesters and the lawful access to sites’.
Inspector Green also told Echonetdaily that an incident in which the driver of a cattle truck damaged two protester cars last Thursday was being investigated an ‘appropriate action taken’ when it was completed.
He said the owner of a 4WD sideswiped by the drilling rig truck as it entered the forest access road had not reported the incident to police and the owner was encouraged to report the accident.
But the man was seen to report it, and an officer take notes, by Echonetdaily soon after the incident.
Inspector Green said that just last week, police arrested four people over a spate of armed robberies across the region. That was in response to criticism police were diverting resources at the expense of community safety.
Meanwhile, NSW Farmers is calling on the NSW premier to broker a peace deal after federal environment minister Tony Burke issued an ultimatum to NSW resources minister Chris Hartcher to toughen the state’s mining and coal seam gas approvals processes.
President Fiona Simson said the land and water protections that are now in place ‘unfortunately do little to protect these precious resources and Tony Burke is right to be questioning whether federal intervention is required’.
Ms Simson said the Strategic Regional Land Use Plans released in late 2012 failed to rule any areas of the state off-limits to mining, delivered unenforceable water protections, introduced a Land and Water Commissioner without enforcement powers and delivered an approvals process more akin to a freeway than a gateway.
‘More importantly, the new assessment framework will not apply to the 46 major mining and gas projects that have already entered the planning system.
‘We have made it clear that a strong regulatory framework to place sensible limits on mining and coal seam gas impacts at a state level is our preference, but we have reached an impasse with the NSW government which is avoiding confrontation with the mining and gas lobby at all costs.
‘The premier has a chance to fix this mess and we don’t think it is too late.
‘By seeking advice from the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday, premier O’Farrell has demonstrated he is willing to turn back the clock on the former government’s mistakes.
‘We have confidence the premier will use the same logic to insist that his own government urgently deliver a more rigorous assessment process for mining and CSG proposals.’
NSW Farmers is calling for enforceable thresholds on water impacts and for the state’s best agricultural land to be ruled off-limits to mining and gas development.