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May 11, 2021

Federal MP, mayors bolster Bentley blockade

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Richmond MP Justine Elliott was proud to have shown up to offer her support to the Bentley blockade campaigners. Photo supplied
Richmond MP Justine Elliott was proud to have shown up to offer her support to the Bentley blockade campaigners. Photo supplied

Luis Feliu

Richmond MP Justine Elliot visited the Bentley community blockade yesterday in the latest show of support by politicians in the region for anti-gas protesters who now face legal threats by the local council to close down their camp.

The federal MP’s move follows recent visits to the campsite by mayors of Lismore, Kyogle and Tweed shires and many others who have made ‘showing up’ at the Bentley blockade a pilgrimage.

Mrs Elliott, a strong campaigner for a gasfield-free northern rivers, had planned to visit the camp next week but decided to head out there yesterday after Richmond Valley Council (RVC) refused an extension for the temporary camp ground.

The refusal has raised concerns among protesters that the RVC is running a political agenda in support of Metgasco or being pressured by the state government.

The two-month permission for the primitive campsite lapses today, but general manager John Walker said council was considering legal action if people camped on the private property refused to vacate.

Mr Walker told media the approval for the camp would not be renewed, claiming conditions had been ignored and suggested that police, rather than council rangers, would be used to enforce any order to vacate.

But Mrs Elliot, a former police officer, said she supported ‘all those who continue to fight the National Party and their pro-CSG expansion agenda’.

‘I stand with our community in opposing CSG mining,’ she told Echonetdaily after visiting the camp on private land adjacent to Metgasco’s planned gas drilling site at Bentley.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell’s recent visit to the camp was this week followed by Tweed mayor Barry Longland and Kyogle mayor Danielle Mulholland making what is increasingly becoming a regional pilgrimage.

Mr Walker has been a vocal supporter of Metgasco’s approval for exploratory gas drilling on the property next door to the camp, owned by former Lismore City councillor and local National Party identity Peter Graham.

Richmond Valley shire mayor Ernie Bennett, another National Party stalwart, appears to have taken a back seat to Mr Walker in batting for miner Metgasco.

Former RVC and Rous Water councillor Stuart George, son of Lismore MP and prominent National Party member Thomas George, came under flak as a councillor, accused of a conflict of interest after it was revealed he was employed by Metgasco, a role he continues to this day.

Motivation questioned

Mr Walker has come under fire from Gasfield Free Northern Rivers (GFNR) which says his actions have ‘raised serious concerns’ about the motivations of Richmond Valley Council in their treatment of the camp.

Mrs Elliot chats with Lock the Gate campaigner from the Tweed, Julie McNamara, atb the Bentley campsite.
Mrs Elliot chats with Lock the Gate campaigner from the Tweed, Julie McNamara, at the Bentley campsite.

GFNR’s latest application to continue and expand the camp at Bungabee Road was made on behalf of community members opposing Metgasco’s invasive drilling at Bentley, spokesman Ian Gaillard said.

‘It is very concerning that while Gasfield Free Northern Rivers is trying to comply with all requests from Richmond Valley Council, we have been denied procedural fairness by them,’ Mr Gaillard said.

‘It is standard practice for Council to offer applicants an opportunity to address any perceived failings in their development applications, but for some reason Council is denying the community camp at Bentley this right.

‘This begs the questions whether Council is running a political agenda in support of Metgasco or is under undue influence from a state government intent on forcing this toxic industry on an unwilling population in the Northern Rivers?

‘I know there are hundreds of properties in Richmond Valley that are non-compliant under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act, yet it is only those exercising their democratic right to protest that are being treated unfairly,’ he said.

‘Even more disturbingly, despite making every effort to follow due process in our dealings with Council, the occupants of the community camp have been subjected to repeated spurious allegations and vilifying innuendo in public statements and media comments by Council representatives.

‘Nonetheless, we will continue with our efforts to pursue an ongoing permit for the camp and have submitted notification to Richmond Valley Council that we will be lodging an application for redetermination of our development application under s82A,’ Mr Gaillard said.

‘We will be pursuing all available legal avenues to maintain the existing camp so we can support people’s right to peacefully protest Metgasco’s invasive gas mining.

‘The irony of the whole situation is that, as RVC well knows, maintaining the Bungabee Road camp is the best way of ensuring public safety and an orderly and organised camp,’ Mr Gaillard said.

Tweed mayor Cr Longland told APN Media during his Bentley visit that he was impressed with what he had seen at the campsite and people there were ‘working within the consent of an approved DA’.

Kyogle mayor Cr Mulholland said she had ‘heard a lot of stories about the “extremists” here so I wanted to come out, meet the people and dispel a few myths.

‘A lot of people here are from the Kyogle LGA and they are worried about gas mining,’ she told APN Media.

Both mayors climbed and sat on the top of the large protest tripod at the campsite’s gate A, sparking loud cheers among the crowd.

 


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9 COMMENTS

  1. A bit of background on Richmond Valley Council General Manager John Walker.
    From July 2009 to December 2012 John Walker was the CEO of ‘Green Resources Capital Ltd’
    and who is ……….. Green Resources Capital Ltd

    According to LinkedIn:

    “Green Resources Capital Limited is an integrated utility company with business focus in gas power generation, energy retailing and green-tech through the development and acquisition of a 600 MW CCGT power plant and utility-scale solar farm projects in New South Wales.”

    It’s a bit hard to swallow Councils claims about being neutral about gas mining, when their General Managers last job was CEO of a company with a business focus in gas power generation.

    • So how does someone from the private sector with no local government experience whatsoever end up as CEO of the Richmond Valley Council? Surely without quite some relevant years of experience he wouldn’t be qualified for the job. I think I smell a rat here.

  2. Bless all those standing up for Bentley and camping out. Bless all the lawyers working tirelessly pro bono. See you out there on sunday xx

  3. RVC is not under state pressure. RVC has been pro-CSG since day dot. This is underscored by RVC councillors serving as ROus Water councillors where the RVC councillors voted agaunst a request for information Rous was seeking from all constituent councils.

    For 37 years Rous Water has told me Rous councilors represent Rous only and not their council. For example when at a LCC meeting I asked one of the LCC councilors who is also Rous councilor a question referring to Rous and he refused to answer on the grounds he was Rous.

    Yet when two RVC councillors vote against Rous interests and for RVC interests at a Rous meeting this is in direct violation of what I have been told for 37 years. Yet no one but no one incl the two Greens on Rous have done anything about this such as censure or even remove from Rous

  4. Thanx Yvonne for the poem and clip, which I posted on Tony Abbotts FB wall. Yes much solidarity and love for you all up at Bentley, the Pilliga and all the other ‘frontlines’ in this effort to have the People’s voice and needs to be heard above that of corporate and political greed.

  5. Disgusting behaviour by Council trying to close a temporary campsite for breach of DA by ‘having a musical concert and minor traffic infringements’ while same council and State Govt and Liberal and National Parties all support Corporations injecting huge amounts of secret and TOXIC CHEMICALS including Depleted Uranium in and around the Water Table by the Fracking Process used in CSG and unconventional Gas extraction.

    So their priority is to ban Music and encourage TOXIC Chemicals in our Water which will destroy the Environment for us, our children and many generations to come. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME. A Plague on all your houses. You DISGUST me. Why or why are we governed by such selfish morons?

  6. The people up at Bentley deserve the support of everyone. Fracking and mining has got out of hand and for little to no benefit for the average Australian. Councils think they can do what they want with no regard for residents. Everyone involved with the Bentley blockade deserves the highest praises. To the people supporting the miners, have a look at yourselfs and ask why would you support the destruction of this earth? What is missing inside of you? Do you feel hollow inside? And to the police.. Did you sign up to protect the people or to protect big profit margins for evil corporates?

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