As of today, the clock is ticking.
The Gasfields Free Northern Rivers is launching a countdown to the June 30 deadline set by the state government to buy back the Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) 445, which covers most of the Lismore electorate and parts of the Clarence.
The countdown launch coincides today with a gathering of Knitting Nannas outside the new office of Metgasco in Casino, and another outside Lismore MP Thomas George’s office.
Metgasco chief executive Peter Henderson has gone on record saying the company wanted to continue with its plans to sink an exploration well at its Rosella site at Bentley, and that it might need police help to access the site.
Mr Henderson also dismissed reports that the company was seeking $80 million in compensation from the government following the suspension of its drilling license last year.
The company challenged the suspension in the NSW Supreme Court and won.
Prior to the state election however, National Party leader Troy Grant and local member Thomas George promised a buy back of the license if re-elected, while the Greens and Labor candidates proposed a more comprehensive cancellation of all northern rivers gas licenses.
In response to questions from Gasfields Free Northern Rivers, NSW Nationals leader Troy Grant confirmed this week that negotiations are underway to buyback the license.
Mr Grant confirmed that the transfer of ownership of the PEL445 title to AJ Lucas had been suspended, and that negotiations with the holder of the licence were ongoing.
‘Efforts to buy back the license are well under way,’ he said.
‘Given the importance of this issue to the community, the NSW Liberals and Nationals Government wants to get this right.’
In order to keep the politicians to their promises, the anti-gas group is installing a clock in the Lismore CBD today.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers coordinator, Dean Draper said the buy back of PEL 445 would represent a significant step towards the achievement of a gasfield free northern rivers, particularly at a time when other National Party MPs, Chris Gulaptis and MLC Ben Franklin were also arguing for an eventual buy out of the Metgasco licenses. “
‘Given the political consensus that exists in this region for the achievement of a gasfield region, the buy back of PEL 445 provides an early opportunity for the state government, the National Party leader Troy Grant and local member Thomas George to make good on their election undertakings to the region,’ Mr Draper said
‘We hope Chris Gulaptis will also encourage the state government to investigate buying back the Metgasco gas licenses that cover most of his electorate of the Clarence before the deadline on June 30th.
The countdown is being launched today in conjunction with the Knitting Nannas regular Thursday knit-in at Mr George’s Lismore office.
‘It’s no longer a protest but a countdown to a unifying event for the region,’ Mr Draper said.
‘We take our local candidates at their word and the whole community is now counting on Thomas George and Troy Grant to see this election promise fulfilled. ‘We look forward to being able to celebrate this important milestone by June 30 the date set by the government for the completion of this process.’