An application by Gasfield Free Northern Rivers for a temporary camp near the Bentley gas test-drilling site has been approved – sort of – amid speculation that Metgasco may start testing earlier than announced (see below).
The application to set up a protest camp on private land at the corner of Bentley and Bungabee roads was requested by Richmond Valley Council.
Council’s general manager John Walker said the application was approved yesterday.
In his lengthy response Mr Walker said the protectors will be allowed to camp overnight and go to the toilet but they will not be allowed to cook, ‘distribute food’ or shower on the site.
Newsflash: Protesters at Metgasco’s Casino headquarters this morning told Echonetdaily they saw a police car and several other unfamiliar vehicles moving around the company’s compound. The spokesperson said in the past this had been a precursor to the arrival of subcontractors’ drilling equipment.
Mr Walker said, ‘the application was assessed in accordance with normal section 68 procedures and subject to conditions, such as no more than 200 people at any one time were allowed to camp, four serviced portable toilets were to be provided onsite, and no shower facilities or cooking or food preparation facilities were permitted’.
Mr Walker said the approval also ‘did not allow any activity, signage or structure to be carried out on a public road or on Council’s road reserve’.
Other conditions include: no parking on Bungabee or Bentley roads; the gate on Bungabee Road is to remain open at all times; no food is to be sold, prepared or distributed onsite without a separate approval ‘to ensue public health standards are maintained’; and the camping ground, dwellings and camp sites must be kept in a clean and tidy condition ‘to ensure the amenity of the premises is maintained for those who can view the campsite from the roadway or adjoining lands’.
‘As Council has repeatedly stated, our main concern is protecting Council assets, including our staff, and to ensure the community was not put at risk,’ he said.
He told ABC radio this morning that ‘the applicant is now accountable for what happens there’.
‘At the moment it is totally unruly, unregulated and is causing a lot of problems.
‘We [now] get to control a range of activities, such as ensuring the number of people camping there is limited, that toilet facilities are provided [and] we can prevent all the cars parking on the roadways by forcing them onto private land.’