The Greens have called on police minister Michael Gallacher to rule out the use of NSW police ‘as private security’ to move on people at the Bentley Blockade.
The party’s NSW mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham also raised the issue of links between members of the NSW Liberal and National parties and miner Metgasco.
The company has paused its plans to drill an exploratory well for tight sands gas at the Bentley site while it is blockaded around the clock by outraged residents.
‘The NSW Police Force should not be used as private security to allow a coal seam gas company to force its way into a community that has overwhelmingly rejected the presence of gas fields in the northern rivers,’ Mr Buckingham said yesterday.
‘We know pressure is mounting on the government to use the police to break the community blockade, but this pressure should be resisted.
‘The gas company needs to bring the community onside if it wants to drill, rather than use the NSW police to force its way in to the drill site.’
He went on to highlight known links between members of the Liberal and National parties and the company, adding that it would not look good for the government if it were perceived to be granting political favours.
‘While Stuart George – the son of local Lismore MP, Thomas George – is the community relations manager for Metgasco, and the former deputy director of the NSW Liberal Party – Richard Shields – was employed as a lobbyist for Metgasco, no special favours should be made because of these links,’ he said.
‘We know Metgasco has close ties to the O’Farrell/Baird governments, and this only reinforces the point that the NSW Police Force should not be used to do a favour for a private company,’ he added.
‘Up to 3,000 local people have converged on the drill site in recent weeks to blockade any attempt to move a drill rig into place. There is no way the NSW police should be used to attempt to force heavy machinery through such a large crowd. The Greens hold serious concerns for public safety if this is attempted.
‘The company is attempting to drill one exploration core hole. It is totally impractical to think that the NSW police will be used as private security to drill the 500 gas wells that Metgasco has said they want to drill. Metgasco must earn a social licence with the local community or simply pull up stumps and go home,’ Mr Buckingham said.