With the NSW government set to make a decision about Metgasco’s drilling suspension this week, the faithful returned to Bentley for breakfast this morning to send off a delegation to speak with the government.
A message sent out by phone and email over the weekend called for ‘a community gathering to call on the NSW government to uphold Metgasco’s licence suspension and cancel the licence outright’.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Boudicca Cerese told the gathering of about two hundred that an announcement on the suspension was expected on Wednesday.
‘Our message to Metgasco and the government is that our community is still here and is still determined to keep our region gas free,’ she said.
She invited everyone to sign a letter to NSW premier Mike Baird and local MPs, asking that the suspension remain in place.
‘Whilst Metgasco may argue over the way the suspension was implemented, we maintain that the suspension itself is totally justified due to Metgasco’s failure to adhere to the community consultation guidelines required under its licence conditions,’ the letter says.
Ms Cerese said a detailed report had been sent to the premier’s office outlining the community’s concerns about the consultation process, as well as operational failures.
She said those failures provided the government with ‘ample justification to not only suspend the licence but to cancel it outright’.
‘Our community is overwhelmingly opposed to gasfield industrialisation of the northern rivers region and only licence cancellation will resolve the ongoing conflict on this issue.’
The letter will be delivered to the offices of Thomas George, Don Page, Geoff Provest and Chris Gulaptis tomorrow at midday, and a delegation will attend a meeting of the Richmond Valley Council at 5pm tomorrow.
‘We strongly urge the state government and our National Party MPs to represent our community rather than the vested interests of mining companies like Metgasco’.
One of the Sydney-bound residents, Bentley landholder Rosemary Joseph expressed concern the NSW government could ‘back-flip’ on the suspension of Metgasco’s drilling licence ‘and we plan to remind them of the ways in which Metgasco failed to undertake genuine and effective consultation with our community,’ she said.
‘At today’s breakfast gathering we are letting our elected representatives know that we, the people, are still here, and we are calling on them to cancel Metgasco’s licence once and for all!’ Ms Joseph added.
‘We locals are fortunate to have the ongoing strong support of people from the northern rivers –support we do not have from our own Nationals MP Thomas George nor the minister for the north coast Andrew Stoner.’
She said that if the suspension was lifted, Bentley protectors would be back in force, ‘stronger and larger than ever to protect our land and defend our rights to clean air and water.’
Her sentiments were echoed by fellow local farmer and administrator Meg Nielsen, who added that the community ‘will not rest until gas exploration licences across this region are cancelled’.
‘This community is outraged that Metgasco doesn’t know when to pack its bags and go. Despite having its licence justifiably suspended, Metgasco is intent on bullying its way back into the region by suing the NSW government,’ she said.
‘We are horrified to think that the government may once again be considering forcing conflict onto this peaceful rural community which has clearly voiced its objection to Metgasco’s forced drilling operations,’ she added.