The anti CSG movement has taken a massive and significant quantum leap in the last few weeks with the emergence of the Bentley blockade. Both the social canvas and the political landscape is being radically re-invented on a scale unseen in the history of the environmental movement in this country.
What began about a month ago with a small roadside camp of a few tents and tarpaulins and about 15 – 20 organisers and people on site has, in just a short space of time, become the largest, most well organised environmental action ever seen in this country.
The blockade site is in the rolling hills of Bentley, stretched out below the cloud-hung Mackellar Ranges just 10mins west of Lismore, directly adjacent to where Metgasco has announced plans to start drilling for tight sands gas (including fracking) at Rosella EOI. The community reaction has been unprecedented – monumental. In just over a month what was a large open stretch of undulating tussock paddock and field on the Kyogle Road has now become the scene of a massive encampment of tents, cars, caravans, banners and flags and people (environmental protectors), stretching back to Bungabee Creek from the road occupying a huge slice of the landscape. In a sense it has become virtually another town/village beyond Lismore itself, with its own road names, traffic police, communications and information centres, community kitchen, coffee shop, take away food stalls, onsite toilet block, parking, lighting and generators, vehicle rescue truck, water tanks and even a small sports field with soccer nets.
In the pre-dawn dark the last two Monday mornings, the red and orange alert system on social media and by text has been successful in summoning some 2-2500 people on site and to the property gates where Metgasco plan entry. The response both weekends has been phenomenal, as column upon column of headlights stream along Kyogle Road to the blockade gate in the early hours. The spirit of the blockade is unstoppable. What was just a small group of protectors has now become an army. To stand in the pre-dawn light surrounded by a sea of humanity with so many people that it spreads and silhouettes to the surrounding hilltops and cliffs is an experience that is indescribable. It is an energy that is wonderful and affirming that such a force of humanity, from all walks of life covering every demographic, can stand together, with torch lights bouncing in thunderous chant, is simply beyond words. The energy rocks the very ground under your feet.
If you have not been to Bentley, then you have not tasted the future – you have not met the vision. This is groundbreaking. Make no mistake, this is Australian history in the making. This is the Northern Rivers Green Eureka. To stand at Bentley is to dream and to gain, in a sense, a glimpse of The Great Vision.
The spirit of the blockade, its momentum and evolution, has caught everyone by surprise. There has just been an incredible amount of input and creativity and grass roots infrastructure happen, that even the cows that wander over to the paddock fence lines look amazed!
What is really quite ironic, even paradoxical, is that what began as a threat to our lands by an arrogant, invasive mining corporate without social licence, has created a radicalised, unified and informed community of people willing to take a stand and respond in no uncertain terms. The whole scenario and experience is incredibly empowering.
To put it simply, Metgasco has a problem… a very, very big problem on its hands. It did not factor in such a massive, well organised community opposition.
To this point, it’s a no show. It is now the third week and Metgasco has not made an appearance. Every Metgasco Free Day is a Community Victory Day. Last Monday morning the organisers of the blockade were informed that the police would not be coming for ‘health and safety reasons’ as over 2000 people stood and waited in the dawn dark outside the drilling site gates. It is a now becoming a game of cat and mouse / ‘show business’. The community is winning this conversation. As one placard read ‘ It is becoming a Metgasco Fiasco’.
To date there has been virtually nil input – not a whisper – from our local state MPs. They appear to have lost their voice and, by their silence, give tacit support to the mining interests. It appears history is outpacing them and will make them redundant. Democracy is being re-built and redefined on the fields of Bentley.
Liz Friend, Mullumbimby