Concerned north coast mothers and their children rallied outside Nationals state MP for Ballina Don Page’s office to protest gas mining at Bentley on Friday morning.
Thirty mothers set up a ‘playgroup flash-mob’ outside minister Page’s office with cushions, toys and colourful signs to convey their opposition to all forms of gas mining on the north coast.
‘As the member for Ballina and minister for the north coast, Don Page is jeopardising the health of north coast families by failing to stand against gas mining,’ said Mullumbimby mother of two, Bec Talbot.
‘The health of our children depends on clean air and clean water, yet Don Page is letting us down with his inaction. He should be standing alongside protectors out at Bentley, rather than sitting in his comfortable office in Ballina.’
But Mr Page says he ‘categorically rejects their assertion’.
He told The Echo, ‘Far from letting people down I have been very active within the NSW government in dealing with what we inherited when we came to government in 2011. The previous state Labor government had issued 44 exploration licences covering 25 per cent of the state including the north coast with hardly any conditions attached.
‘Our government, by contrast, has issued no new licences and recently put a freeze on any new licences.
‘In the meantime we have put in place the toughest regulatory regime in the world to protect our land and water resources. While there is no CSG in the Ballina electorate, the previous government granted Dart Energy an exploration licence (PEL 445), which covers a large part of the the northern rivers area.
‘I have met with Dart and they are now proposing to relinquish that part of their PEL 445 which covers the Ballina electorate. I’m lobbying the minister for energy not to reissue that part of the PEL that is to be relinquished.’ He added that his meeting with the mothers and children was very cordial and respectful.
But Mr Page is yet to comment on whether he supports Metgasco’s planned gas drilling in prime agricultural lands at Bentley, or the local farmers that oppose it.