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March 2, 2021

Council bans Bentley camp

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At the Bentley protectors' camp on Tuesday. The application for a continued DA for the camp was rejected on Wednesday (April 23). Photo Marie Cameron
At the Bentley protectors’ camp on Tuesday. The application for a continued DA for the camp was rejected on Wednesday (April 23). Photo Marie Cameron

Chris Dobney

Richmond Valley Council (RVC) has refused to issue an extension to the DA for the Bentley protectors’ camp, meaning anyone deciding to camp there beyond Anzac Day can potentially be removed by police despite the fact that they are on private property.

RVC GM John Walker cited breaches of the original permit granted to Gasfield Free Northern Rivers as the reason for the decision, including the making of food and performance of music at the camp, more people staying on site than the permit allowed and minor traffic infringements.

But the group says the rejection shows bad faith on the part of the council, which encouraged them to submit the amended DA in the first place.

In a media release issued this morning representatives say they feel ‘betrayed’ by RVC’s decision to refuse the extension and emphasise that they will ‘explore all options’ to continue their use of the site.

Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Aidan Rickets said Mr Walker’s announcement yesterday ‘displays complete contempt for public safety and community goodwill’.

‘In the last week we have seen the minister Anthony Roberts come to the northern rivers and vilify local residents as “extremists”.

‘Vilification and force are hallmarks of an industry and a government that has lost the debate.

‘The people of the northern rivers have shown themselves to be a dignified, restrained and peaceful community that is determined in huge numbers to resist the gasfield invasion.

‘The only honourable thing for the RVC and the state government to do now is to seek a negotiated political solution to the impasse in the northern rivers rather than continue to increase the level of force that it applies against this community,’ Mr Ricketts said.

Kyogle mayor Danielle Mulholldand climbs one of the tripods at Bentley yesterday. Photo Dean Draper
Kyogle mayor Danielle Mulholland climbs one of the tripods at Bentley yesterday. Photo Dean Draper

Mayor against mayor

Yesterday the Kyogle mayor Danielle Mulholland and Tweed mayor Barry Longland visited the site and climbed the prominent tripod structures in the driveway that protesters have built as a sign of support.

RVC mayor Ernie Bennett told ABC Radio the other mayors were inciting illegal behaviour by doing so as the structures were built without a permit and could be dangerous.

He added that the mayors’ trip had caused a ‘media frenzy’.

Mr Bennett claimed that police were concerned about ‘crime’ in their response to the application but declined to elaborate what he meant by the statement, saying that it was a police matter.

Local landholder Ross Joseph responded that the structures are not part of the campsite but are located in the driveways to Peter Graham’s adjacent property where gas exploration is planned.

GM had ‘no idea’

Just a week ago Lock the Gate’s Ian Gaillard told Echonetdaily he was optimistic that the extension, which would have allowed for up to 600 people to legally camp at the site, would be approved at today’s council meeting.

‘I feel it would be in the best interests of everyone,’ he said at the time.

He added the ‘handful of breach notices’ that had been received by the landholder regarding the campsite were ‘being addressed as we speak’.

Last night he  told Echonetdaily that as recently as yesterday morning, Mr Walker, when asked how the application was proceeding, responded, ‘I don’t know; I’ll have to check’.

Mr Gaillard said there were no plans to pack up the camp.

‘I think there’ll be a fair bit of wrangling and some legal eagles and opinion for a little while yet,’ he said.

‘Of course the police would have to be contacted and all the Is dotted and Ts crossed before they were able to move in on this camp.’

He added that he wouldn’t be surprised if the camp swelled in size before any police action took place.

‘One would expect that a lot of people would show a lot of support for the camp and a lot of disgust at the way the Richmond Valley Council has shown itself to behave in this matter,’ he said.

‘It seems that the Richmond Valley council, under whoever’s orders they are acting, have decided to line up with the “mining by martial law” faction and we would expect better things of elected representatives.’

Mr Walker said in a statement yesterday, ‘the site’s subsequent growth since the approval was originally granted, the length of time that the camp has been operating, the ongoing breach of many of the approval conditions and the inability of the consent holder to control the activities of many of the campers and visitors to the site makes the use of a Section 68 approval under which it has operated as a primitive camping site inappropriate’.


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  1. Mr Walker,
    I intend camping there on Sunday night. I intend spending as much time as I can protecting our environment by showing my disgust at the invasion of the proposed Gas well at Bentley. I feel there will be many (as in Thousands) who also feel the way I do.
    Please Reconsider…

    regards Doug

  2. I think this goes to show that it is time for a change in how we fuel our cars as it has become a part of our lifestyle. Now all we are saying is that why does our land the future food producing areas need to be ruined and the toxic side effects of the process of Fracking be the only option to creating a fuel..
    There are electric cars and I have heard of cars driven on a combustion style engine so we would be happy to convert totally lets put money into a new environmentally friendly fuel.
    No fracking needed then and all happy.. that is all I have to say..

    • Yes. Electric is ready to go but is being stifled by the oil companies’ grip on governments – they are being bought … again.

  3. Sounds like they are ready to make their move. Andrew Stoner representing us? What a joke. They are trying to make it as hard as possible to use our democratic rights to protest. Everyone should come out to show that the Northern Rivers stands by our democratic rights to protest and let the camp swell in numbers. It’s private land and the proposed gas well poses a threat to our very livelihoods. Now our tax dollars will go to fund a police state that is working against the majority and catering to multinational corporations.

  4. Bob,
    funny you should ask that. Our family owns one of the few 100% electric cars in the Northern Rivers. We also own a diesel car because our employer moved my wifes job to the opposite direction to where I work, (until then we only had one car).
    This question of walking is a misrepresentattion of the facts of using alternative fuels for our life. There have already been a few studies that prove that with current technology, we could be independent of Fossil fuels for our electricity by 2020. I also have grid feed solar power at home.
    One of the furphys about alternative energy is that we will not be able to live as we currently are. The reality is that there are some changes already being made, because people want to minimise their energy costs. Our environment cannot sustain the on-going misuse of the resources: we need to keep the fossil fuel resources available for uses that are difficult to replace, not waste them in heating or cooking where the energy could be supplied more sustainably.
    The reality is that the gas mined under the current proposals is not for use in Australia, but is to be exported to Asia. Once this resource is depleted (if the project actually starts) in 20 to 30 years time, there will be no gas resources left available for future generations. If the resource is left in the ground, if the technology improves in the future, it is still available to be used. The anti-CSG movement does not want to stop all mining, but wants to see the resource extracted safely & sustainably for the use of Australians. Current technology does not let the gas be extracted without risk to our water resources. Medgasgo has already had an accident in Casino with a Gas drill site, & other companies have been fined for polluting aquifers. The current mining techniques are proven unsafe.
    Overseas there is a history of up to 10% of CSG wells failing. It seems our local record is also abysmal. 90% of residents who do not want this invasive mining in Northern NSW should be listened to. Keep our area beautiful and pristine for our huge tourism industry, not industrialise our landscape for the profit of Multi-National companies, to the detriment of current jobs in our local area.

    regards Doug

  5. I am disgusted by the way RVC has responded to the DA request, in particular the GM. We need to keep on & deal with this politely & intelligently as always & not sink to their underhanded way of doing things…even tho’ I feel incensed at the decision especially as it is based on untruths
    Michele Lacroix

  6. Council has NO jurisdiction. Its claim of authority over anyone is [not soundly based].

    Ask any councilor who presumes to claim authority over you by claiming he is a representative of local govt to supply you with proof of claim in the form of a written affidavit bearing his name and signature.

    We have had 3 referendums in this country aimed at granting local council constitutional recognition and each one has failed.

    Council will steam roller over everyone unless it is challenged but the FACT is that local council HAS ZERO AUTHORITY so CHALLENGE them to provide you with PROOF OF CLAIM because when you do you will discover that they CANT.

  7. I’ll be there on Sunday!
    I signed a private agreement with the owner to exercise my rights to peacefully vigil in a silent protest against the imposition of invasive gas fields in our area, so, if the mayor likes, he can go get a Court order that proves I’m in the wrong here. Until such time as I see a court order, which I will fight with my own lawyer, or permission is withdrawn by the owner, not going anywhere! BULLY.

  8. One solution is:

    The private owner of the land can extend an open invitation to
    those persons interested in discussing the matters affecting
    the mining of private land and in particular the attempts by government
    to control individual expression of opinion or dissatisfaction at
    the manner of governmental handling / administration of the issue
    of “fracking” and its impact on the public water supply

    This is a subject that can be discussed on privately owned land

  9. Gandhi’s
    stage 1 – ignore us: (give out the PELs, bypass via “fast-track”, “can’t say NO”)
    stage 2 – laugh at us: probably, for this, more a case of contempt and dismissal
    Stage 3 – fight us: HERE WE ARE – 200 police armed and ready if we don’t comply with (in order of power) corporate/federal/state/council requirement to commit ecocide on our land.

    Also…..so much for the Lie about cheap gas!!! Another 20% rise flagged because the greed of the miners want to export the lot! No mates rates for us even when we give them tax breaks on every drop of diesel they use.

  10. It seems timely that the camp be outlawed just as the imminent arrival of Metgasco gets closer… maybe not a coincidence.
    Please don’t make it so hard for we the people of the Northern Rivers to protest in an orderly manner and to stand united against this invasion of our land and water against our wishes. It is our duty to protect our water and our farmlands.
    Watch this you tube to get an idea of what we here on the Far North Coast already know about where all this is heading http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOMWzjrRiBg

    I’m 13 and I was at Bentley on Sunday. What a disgrace to the Northern Rivers community.
    Over 87% of us are against CSG. Mayor Walker should be sacked and replaced with a community member who listens and acts on what we want!

  12. Thanks to the Echo for consistently presenting a balanced point of view and continuing to be the voice of the community. Love ya, kp.

  13. We should have a march from Lismore to Bentley to show the council what the side of the road would be like if they take away the camping ground

  14. To everyone who is giving up their time to protect our air, land and water from this invasive attempt to industrialise the rural landscape, you have the overwhelming support of the region’s Councils and Councillors.

    While these proposed wells happen to be in the RVC LGA (local gov. area) this is definitely an issue of grave concern for the entire Northern Rivers and our wonderful community is acting in a way that makes me feel very proud.

    Cr Jeff Johnson
    Ballina Shire Council

  15. Its time for the people of this state to rise to one voice and express a loss of confidence in this governments ability to govern and seek an injunction to have them dismissed.

    Water is the most valuable resource in this country and any threat to ground water IS and MUST be seen as a threat to the security of this country and therefore constitutes a threat to national security.

    Is is the civic duty of every responsible citizen in this country to stand up to the corporate attack against our nation that is the coal seam gas industry and the threat to the ground water and hence the life blood of this country that it represents, and to clearly recognize that this attack against Australian ground water reserves is being sanctioned, condoned and in fact being pushed forward by public trustees that are elected to office to act on our behalf.

    I hereby put forth a public motion to express a loss of confidence in, and motion to dismiss, the government of new south wales.

    Every politician in this state and in this country who has supported this toxic and completely unnecessary industry should be immediately dismissed and required to show cause as to why they should not be charged with abuse of office, treachery and treason and taken before the high court for trial.

    • Well said Max but how do we really start the process to actually achieve something. Seems they take the piss and know that nothing can be done. I’m with you but being a pleb need direction!

  16. Of the people,by the people,for the people??? Not so sure about this council. Perhaps of the money, for the money, by the greedy.

  17. This isn’t rocket science protectors. get a collection plate going, apparently 3 grand can get a nice bottle of plonk and all the favours one needs. Oops sorry, that’s only if you’ve got a grey suit and no conscience.

  18. Sorry we can’t be there with you but our thoughts and support are fully with the Protectors!
    Carey, love ur comment…. How about getting all your friends to add their comments and so heartening that one so young is so outspoken.

    Wow, also, well done to Danielle and Barry; Mayoral leadership much appreciated.

  19. I feel compelled to share an idea whose time, I think, has come. That is, that all of the major CSG and mining protest groups across NSW need to unite for the purpose of filing a Class action in the Supreme Court against the N.S.W. Government charging them with undue duty of care in their protection of N.S.W. land and it’s people by allowing CSG mining, despite the overwhelming ammount of evidence at hand from CSG activities in America and in SE Qld. that this activity presents a significant risk to peoples health and ground water and air quality.
    I am confident that that there would be QC’s out there who would take on a case like this pro-bono and that there would a huge ammount of support financially and every other way.

  20. May be able to withdraw the DA, but can’t stop us visiting – daily, all hours! There are thousands of us: standing together we can do this.

  21. Richmond Valley Council, Obviously been bought by ‘Metgasco’. From the mayor on down they should be dismissed & newly elected representatives of”The People” installed. To me RVC are nothing but a collection of toilet paper (—- wipes). However there are council elections in the future & it will be interesting to see how the current lot fair, I mean there will always be a few fools that vote for them……………………………….

  22. Let it be known ,
    For everyone at the Bentley site, showing up , there are 1000 people who are behind them ,
    And a lot would drop their life’s commitments to show up., as this an important issue
    Affecting us all.our land , our future….

  23. Congratulations to the three Mayors who represented the people by taking a public stand against CSG.
    The RVC are making the wrong decision by banning the protest camp.


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