A group of Bentley farmers are today heading to Sydney with the hope of speaking to politicians about theirconcerns over unconventional gas exploration in their area.
Yesterday afternoon a text alert went out from Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, calling on supporters to come to this morning’s ‘greet the dawn’ at the Bentley Blockade.
The call was to symbolically support the farmers who have taken it on their own bat to visit state parliament today after requests to Lismore Nationals MP Thomas George to arrange meetings for them with senior state politicians appear to have drawn a blank.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Adam Guise estimated that 1,000 or more ‘packed the site entrance’ at 5am this morning to farewell the farmers and put on a show for Channel 7 Sydney which had sent cameramen to cover the story.
The mayors of Lismore, Byron and Kyogle were also present.
‘People were absolutely inspired and galvanised today, and motivated to keep doing what they’re doing,’ Mr Guise told Echonetdaily.
‘They realise it sends big shockwaves through the halls of power and puts the government on notice that we’re a non-violent movement and we’re not about to lie down and let them turn the northern rivers into a gasfield.’
He added that peaceful protests like this morning’s ‘bring people together, build trust and build relationships. We’re prepared, united and non-violent.’
Mr Guise said that while no trouble is expected from police today, shock and awe tactics are planned for two weeks’ time, when organisers believe as many as 900 riot police will attempt to out-flank protesters.
‘We’re expecting 700-900 riot police to arrive from Sydney on May 19. By my estimates they work on a ratio of three to one, so if there are 3,000 of us they’ll send 900.
Mr Guise said local police were largely onside ‘but they feel the minister will sign off on it [the use of police at the site]’.
He said he was not certain what ministers the group of landholders would be able to speak to but was ‘confident there will be some people they can meet with’.
But he added that one of them would not be new mining minister Anthony Roberts.
‘Mr Roberts said he was not prepared to meet with us unless we announce civil disobedience as he did not want to “consort with lawbreakers”.
‘Given the former premier and resources minister have just resigned in the wake of ICAC revelations we’re asking who are the ones consorting with lawbreakers?’