Story Chris Dobney Video: footage Michael Balson editing Sharon Shostak
As politicians across the northern rivers clamour to claim credit for the suspension of Metgasco’s Bentley permit, the people who really made it happen are taking a moment to celebrate – and consider what comes next. ‘People of this region will not rest until all the licences across this region are revoked and until we have a legislative protection to be gasfield free,’ an exhausted Adam Guise from Gasfield Free Northern Rivers told Echonetdaily last night.
‘This is the last hurrah for Metgasco in terms of forcing invasive mining into this community and non-violent people power has won the day. ‘People across NSW and Australia will now be more empowered to take the fight to the industry. ‘This victory is a beacon of light to those communities.’
Gas companies on notice
Lock the Gate’s Ian Gaillard echoed the sentiments, saying that any other gas companies thinking of activating their north-coast licences should think again.
‘IGas has just bought Dart – they’ll all be watching. We’ve got Summerland Resources, we’ve got Macquarie Resources, we’ve got Red Sky. So if all these people do decide to come to the north coast they’ll face the same because people are determined – they know we can get a result,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
Mr Gaillard also issued a warning to protesters that their celebrations could be short-lived. ‘Mr Henderson from Metgasco has asked Mr Roberts to give a stay on the decision for 48 hours so he can convince him to go ahead, because they’ve got drill rigs and everything hired,’ he said as our cameras were rolling at Bentley yesterday. ‘So that’s a tempering thing and it would be a major, major backflip if they went ahead with it,’ he added.
To see more of this speech play our video above.
Mr Guise took time out to thank the police, particularly the local police, who he said were instrumental in pushing back against the plan for more than 800 police to act as a private security force for Metgasco.
‘Senior command and local police spoke very strongly against this operation. They recognised the broad social nature of this movement and the non-violent nature of the process,’ he told Echonetdaily. ‘We thank them for their open dialogue and concerted effort to speed up the chain of command to the hierarchy that they didn’t want to do this,’ he added.
Photos Marie Cameron
Meanwhile Lock the Tweed’s Michael McNamara has called on Lismore MP Thomas George to resign over his inaction and perceived conflict of interests on the issue.
‘Thomas George has done nothing to head off the calamitous prospect of police being sent in against peaceful community members and yet he stood beside the minister as he made the announcement that Metgasco’s approval to drill had been suspended and that Metgasco had been referred to ICAC,’ Mr McNamara said yesterday.
‘Thomas George has spoken up for, and praised, Metgasco in state parliament despite the deep concerns of many northern rivers communities about their activities’ ‘He has failed to support the communities he is supposed to represent despite numerous safety incidents and mishaps at Metgasco’s previous drilling activities,’ he added.
‘One of these incidents is still being investigated by WorkCover NSW after it put workers lives at risk. ‘Many of the adjoining landowners who have been expressing concerns about the proposed drilling live in the Lismore electorate, yet Mr George has done little if anything to represent their interests.
‘He has been conspicuously silent during the whole of the Bentley blockade, only coming out recently on a TV News broadcast to declare that he could not see how his son working for Metgasco created a conflict of interest for him.
‘Nationals MPs, including Thomas George, supported the introduction of the “gateway” process, for the assessment of gas projects that would impact on significant agricultural land, that has no gate. The gateway process is merely a hole in the fence. It slows up the miners as they make their way through but can’t keep them out.’
‘Mr George should accept that it is time to go. He no longer enjoys the support of the communities he is supposed to represent’, Mr McNamara concluded.
Camp Liberty continues
The Bentley protectors are not going anywhere soon.
Adam Guise told Echonetdaily that fresh documentation for the continuation of the camp would be lodged with Richmond Valley Council today.
‘Ironically all the docs for the DA review were ready to file today’, he said yesterday evening.
‘We still intend to file them tomorrow; we want to comply and we want to stay here. Camp’s not winding down quickly.’ Mr Guise added the camp would remain in place for ‘a number of weeks at least’.
He said there would now be a daytime picnic, at 2pm on Saturday at the camp ‘to share a meal and share each other’s company’.
He reminded visitors that the camp remains a drug- and alcohol-free zone. ‘We’re still here to do a job and have a working camp. We’ll celebrate but we’ll do it without drugs and alcohol,’ Mr Guise said.
‘We encourage those people who do want to do it in that way [with drugs or alcohol] to do it at home or offsite. It can’t happen here.’
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