Story and photos Marie Cameron
Yesterday’s jubilation was the culmination of months of protest in difficult conditions at a remote location by a concerned group of ‘Earth protectors’, many of whom had little or no previous experience at direct action or anti-government protests.
For the last two months the Githabul traditional owners, local farmers, community members and concerned citizens had given their all to repel Metgasco and their plans for CSG exploration at Doubtful Creek. From the beginning Metgasco had it all their way. Large numbers of police and the rural riot squad pushed the 300 strong crowds back to get the drill through to private property owned by Steve Casey. Arrests mounted as people put their bodies on the line: people used colorful and inventive methods to register their objection but to no avail.
Once Metgasco had the drill in place they gained more government support. This time it came from Forests NSW. The Eden Creek State Forest stretched between the new test site and the closest good road access on nearby Knights Road. Forests NSW managed the area as a pine plantation and had started its harvest program. On the front gate Forests NSW attached a warning of a pesticide spraying program and declared it a no-go zone. Metgasco won again by using Forests NSW as a buffer zone to keep protesters away; to operate out of public view and without any environmental observation by Earth protectors.
A kitchen was established at the Eden Creek entry, the local farmers came each day to deliver water and service the portable toilets. People came from everywhere with food and good wishes. The rains came down and the mud oozed. Always, the protestors keep the pressure on and did what they could to stymie Metgasco. When Metgasco announced they had successfully installed the mine people felt deflated. Confusion over protest direction arose between the many CSG free groups and the campaign stalled. Within a week it regained momentum and Metgasco once again needed police protection to get some of its equipment off site.
The drill rig was not a part of that removal and to this day it waits ready for transportation. Earlier this week a meeting between all parties and Forests NSW revealed Metgasco was waiting on the police to provide them with a suitable escort time.