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Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

CSG roundtable ‘won’t change minister’

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Chris Dobney

Lock the Gate activists got a seat at the (round) table along with miners, MPs and government officials at yesterday’s CSG stakeholders’ meeting in Canberra, called by federal resources minister Ian Macfarlane.

But the meeting is unlikely to affect the outcome of the battle against coal seam gas in the northern rivers, with the minister’s own spokesperson telling Echonetdaily, ‘this was not a meeting to make decisions about projects. Those decisions are for the state government. The meeting was just a chance to express views.’

And that sentiment was clearly reflected by Lock the Gate’s weary delegate, Ian Gaillard, as he spoke to Echonetdaily by phone in a taxi on the way to the airport afterwards.

‘Governments of both persuasions intend to push ahead with further unconventional gas mining and exploration,’ he said. ‘It will remain to be seen how far they get.’

In a published after the meeting statement Mr McFarlane said, ‘While there are various views, the majority opinion expressed at this meeting was that the CSG industry should operate within the framework set out by the NSW government including the buffer zone, while also meeting any conditions set out by the NSW chief scientist and where farmers agree to have CSG on their land.’

NSW chief scientist and engineer Mary O’Kane delivered her initial report into CSG in July, outlining some minimum requirements, including introducing a rigorous soil and groundwater testing regime and the establishment of a one-stop data bank for test results.

Her full report is not due until next year and the government has largely been silent about the recommendations so far.

But Mr Gaillard said, ’minister Macfarlane continues to put his hope in the science, and it is to be remembered that science is evidentially based, so the story now is not necessarily the story when these miners have gone. I expressed my concern that the politicians and the miners will not be around if anything does go wrong in the future and ultimately will not be held responsible for their decisions.’

Mr Gaillard described the atmosphere at the meeting as ‘prickly’, with CSG miner Metgasco unyielding in its determination to mine in the northern rivers.

‘I feel [the minister] listened but Metgasco and other gas companies have already had meetings with him and I feel the agenda is already set. But he said he was willing to listen.’

He said Metgasco indicated, ‘the only good gas is around Casino, Casino airport and Dobies Bight but that doesn’t mean they won’t keep exploring in other areas, particularly in the Clarence Valley’.

‘At times there was a lot of passion expressed and there were some wild things thrown around but at least everyone got a chance to have their say.

‘I said we would continue to oppose CSG. And I told them the reason so many people in the northern rivers are opposing it is because we want to be sure the cumulative impacts of unconventional gas don’t affect our grandchildren or great grandchildren. I said it is a grab for gas and suggested Metgasco formulate an exit strategy.’

Echonetdaily has yet to receive a full list of attendees but at first glance it does not appear that they were evenly divided between supporters and objectors to CSG.

State Nationals MPs Thomas George and Chris Gulaptis were on the list, as were Stuart George and Peter Henderson from Metgasco, a representative of ERM (a major Metgasco shareholder), the head of Geoscience Australia (a body that advises minisers), Richmond Valley Council GM John Walker, the head of Richmond Valley Water Users Group, NORCO chair Greg McNamara, Leigh Sherman (a dairy farmer from Goolmangar) and a Bentley landholder Peter Graham. Also attending were Tourism operator and Marine Biologist Wendy Craig Duncan and Ian Gaillard.

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  1. Lock the Gate does not represent everybody in the anti-csg campaign. Indeed for many of us Lock the Gate is part of the problem. Just be sure to understand negotiations held with Lock the Gate will have no bearing on those of us who are opposed to Drew Hutton and the Greens.

  2. “science is evidentially based” – I assume this means the science is based on evidence not conjecture. So when we have the evidence that CSG mining is harmful then Lock The Gate have a case to request it’s termination. I agree with this situation. Do they have such evidence that is scientifically sound? If so I trust they will present it for analysis.

  3. Lock The Gate is not a problem for the 95% + of Northern Rivers residents who have declared their communities Gasfield Free.

    This broad-based community organisation is also not a problem for many members/supporters of various political parties, including the Nats and ALP. I am sure there are members/supporters of the Libs and Greens involved – but I would not know for sure because I have never asked them. The Lock The Gate movement is broader than single party political allegiance. It crosses political boundaries like no other movement in this recent times.

    The issues involved in the campaign against the rapid (and rabid) expansion of Unconventional Gas (including CSG) and Coal go to the heart of what it means to live in a rural community. We value the long term health of our land, our water, our children and our community more than we value the transient (and disputed) benefits of an exploitative and industrialised commercial activity that feeds its profits overseas and carries with it massive risks to all the things we value.

    I suggest to Mr Henderson that he venture beyond his entrenched political horizons and talk to a range of people in his local community who are involved and active in the Lock The Gate Alliance campaign. I am sure he will get a surprise.

  4. So Graeme you are a fan of fracking I take it? Perhaps if you care enough to educate yourself about the horrific environmental impacts of CSG instead of believing the industry spin you will realise that LTG and the Greens are not ‘part of the problem’ but indeed part of the solution. I would say that the problem is greed on the part of CSG companies and ignorance on the part of landholders who fail to look objectively at the issue. Our children’s future depends on each one of us doing whatever we can to stop destructive mining and instead learning to live in harmony with nature.

  5. How will future generations judge the present when they have to cope with the repercussions of the absolute stupidity of CSG drilling and excessive coal production?

    To those that do not treasure our water, arable land, flora, fauna, oceans reefs etc. you are leaving this Country and Planet a miserable legacy. Look beyond your greed.


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