Information that Metgasco may be planning to undertake earthworks at the Bentley property where its gas exploration licence is currently suspended is causing consternation among protesters, even though the works are apparently being undertaken on behalf of the landholder.
Echonetdaily understands that as part of access arrangements made between Metgasco and landholder Peter Graham, the company agreed to undertake earthworks on the property unrelated to its test well.
These include the construction of an access road and causeways at the back and fence realignment at the front.
A spokesperson for Richmond Valley Council told Echonetdaily this morning that, to her knowledge, there was no DA for outstanding works on the property.
She added that the planned work was limited to the ‘remediation of driveways into the property back to their original state’.
She said work was not planned on the property itself
Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson told Echonetdaily the company had ‘done nothing at the Graham’s property other than inspect the mess and damage left after the supposed remediation of the site’.
‘Metgasco will assist the Grahams in any additional remediation and repair work that is needed,’ he added.
The move has sparked concerns by former Bentley protesters that the earthworks are a Trojan horse to provide easy access for earthmoving equipment to the site in case the current suspension is lifted.
One protester, who declined to be named, told Echonetdaily, ‘When people see a bulldozer working that site for any reason they are going to freak out’.
‘When Metgasco gets a bulldozer behind the fence line… what? They’re going to take it away again?’
A spokesperson for Gasfield Free Northern Rivers has called for calm while the group works through the issue with local police.
But he has also called on Metgasco to make a statement on the issue.
‘In recognition of Metgasco pulling out, it would be sensible of the Grahams to let the community know of any unrelated earthworks happening on their property so they don’t create a situation that might cause another blockade,’ Adam Guise told Echonetdaily this morning.
‘There needs to be a clear statement from Metgasco and the Grahams to assure the community that any proposed earthworks on the property aren’t to further gas drilling operations in the future,’ he added.
‘The community is eternally vigilant that any underhanded preparation for drilling could result in a huge community presence returning to the site.
‘We want a clear written statement from the minister that Metgasco’s operations are suspended indefinitely.
‘This community won’t rest until all licences in the northern rivers are cancelled.
Meanwhile he has urged the community to ‘keep calm’ and not to ‘go back into blockade mode’ yet.
‘Obviously if there’s silly business and Metgasco are looking to come back to drill the same site then there’s going to be huge uproar from the community and will result in a situation that’s a lot more tense than before,’ Mr Guise said.