The Ballina Shire Council will write to New South Wales premier Mike Baird asking that the northern rivers be declared gasfield free.
The motion from Greens councillor Jeff Johnson called on Mr Baird to revoke all petroleum exploration licences covering the northern rivers region.
Cr Johnson argued at today’s meeting that the council should send a clear message that gasfields were ‘contradictory to the major industries of the region: namely tourism and agriculture’.
He said clauses in the existing licences would ensure that the government would not be subjected to compensation claims.
‘There are a number of PELs covering the entire region and these need to be immediately revoked owing to the incompatible nature of invasive gasfields with the region’s major industries,’ he said.
‘We can learn from the experience in Tara and other southeast Queensland towns that have experienced health issues, water contamination, leaking gas wells and huge drops in local property values.’
But the motion was not unanimous, with conservative councillors Keith Johnson, Ben Smith and Paul Worth voting against.
Cr Smith said, ‘I certainly don’t support coal seam gas but I’ve got no problem with conventional gas’.
‘We use it every day in our cars, for transport, cooking. The issue I have with the motion is that it’s anti-gas, which is not practical with regards to the way our society is,’ he said.
He said that while he had issues with fracking and CSG, conventional gas mining that satisfied environmental guidelines should not be ruled out.
Cr Keith Johnson said he agreed ‘word for word’, saying an absolute embargo approach to solving problems doesn’t work’.
He also rejected ‘the assertion there were 1,000 riot squad waiting to jump on Bentley’.
Mayor David Wright assured Cr Johnson that he personally knew the caterers who were going to feed the police, and that food had been ordered for the operation.
Cr Keith Williams also pointed out that Southern Cross University had been approached to cater to a force of 800 police.
‘We can’t be half pregnant on this. We’re either protecting the northern rivers from gasfields or we’re not,’ he said.
‘Our community has been absolutely clear that it doesn’t want to be home to gasfields … and while there might be arguments for gasfields elsewhere we are talking about the northern rivers,’ he said.
Members of the Knitting Nannas attending the meeting said they were pleased the council was taking a stand.
Val Gilmore summed it up.
‘As grandmothers it’s our responsibility to ensure our children and grandchildren have clean air, water and sustainable food for the future,’ she said.