Residents of the NSW northwest town of Narrabri urged their local councillors yesterday not to force campers, including many from the northern rivers, off local public lands in the the face of a growing number of people settling in to blockade a controversial coal-mine project at Leard State Forest.
Hours before the address by the locals in support of a Leard forest protectors camp, a protester was arrested in the latest action to prevent Whitehaven Coal clearing the forest for its Maules Creek coal mine.
Lock the Gate reports that several structures with protesters attached to machinery were still in place late yesterday, halting construction work on the site.
More than 100 people, including many from the north coast, are at the blockade site fearing the destruction of the forest by the massive project.
In the council chambers, Narrabri shire residents addressed councillors in the second extraordinary meeting on the issue recently called by mayor Conrad Bolton.
They urged Council to get further legal advice before trying to oust campers from public lands in the shire.
Maules Creek farmer Andrew Laird said ‘the Local Environment Plan zoning of the Leard Forest area as RU3 Forestry means that camping is permitted without council consent.
‘It is neither up to Narrabri Council or the Forestry Corporation to regulate camping activities over the area of the current Leard forest camp,’ Mr Laird said..
Narrabri resident and farmer Stuart Murray said that as far as the Pilliga Protectors Camp set up on the Newell Highway goes, ‘the Newell Highway is owned by Roads and Maritime Services’ (RMS) and that any management arrangement between Narrabri council and the RMS ‘needs to take the form of a written legal instrument of agreement’.
‘For Council to push ahead on management decision without a clear legal agreement with the Roads and Maritime Services could mean they leave themselves open to the repercussions of “legal error”,’ Mr Murray said.
‘Cr O’Regan’s rescission motion should be carried. Narrabri Council is taking a political stand and council should get back to its core business: running the shire.’
Lock the Gate said that Narrabri Shire residents had sought legal advice as to whether the decision by the council was legally binding.