Anti-gas activists are prepared to revive a blockade at Bentley but would prefer to work with politicians to ban coal seam gas mining from the area.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Elly Bird told Echonetdaily that Richmond Valley Council’s announcement that a full development application would be required for the Bentley site was not a major problem.
‘We were on the way to doing just that last time so we wouldn’t be starting from scratch,’ Ms Bird said.
Richmond Valley Council general manager John Walker told the ABC this week that it was unlikely a temporary approval would be granted for another protest camp at the Bentley site.
‘I’d be reluctant to go with a temporary approval this time given what we saw and how it grew – and the needs of a camp with cooking, ablutions, showering, garbage, all of the things that need to be put in place,’ Mr Walker said.
‘So I think given what we experienced last time we’re more likely to want a full-on development application before it could be considered.
‘So that takes a long time.’
Ms Bird said given the Richmond Valley Council had passed a motion saying the community was against fracking in the area, anti-gas groups expected that the council would support any future protest.
‘At this stage we’re not getting ready for a blockade because we are preferring to work with politicians to get the result,’ she said.
Meanwhile, the NSW Greens and supporters gathered at the Bentley site yesterday to launch a private members bill aimed at prohibiting coal seam gas mining across New South Wales.
Newly elected Ballina MP Tamara Smith and Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said it was time for NSW to move past the fractious coal seam gas debate, ban the industry and move forward with clean renewable energy projects.
They will introduce the Bill to the NSW Legislative Council on Tuesday, May 5 as their first act in the new parliament.
The Bill amends the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 by making it an offence to prospect for or mine coal seam gas and other unconventional gas in NSW.
They said the Bill does not directly cancel existing petroleum licenses, although it renders them useless, but it does give the Minister the ability to cancel licenses without compensation where it is in the public interest to do so.
This is done by reinstating the public interest test which was introduced by the government in 2013 but was subsequently repealed in 2014.
Ms Smith said her first action in Parliament would be to support the Bill.
‘The community blockade at Bentley showed that coal seam gas does not have a social licence in the northern rivers and I’m calling on the government to listen to the community and fix the laws,’ she said.
‘They can do that by supporting the Greens’ Bill.
‘We need to move on from this long running debate about coal seam gas and start building a clean energy future.
‘I will be strongly supporting community renewable energy projects and regional renewable energy solutions as the new member for Ballina.’
During the recent election campaign the NSW Labor Party, The Greens and Christian Democrat Party pledged to stop CSG mining in the region.
The National Party’s Thomas George, who narrowly won back his seat, also pledged to buy-back CSG licenses in the region.,