Politicians from the Greens to the Nationals have responded emphatically against gas miner Metgasco’s announcement that it plans to use the courts to force an unwelcome return to the northern rivers.
The company announced yesterday that it had unilaterally quit talks with the state government and would: sue the government over the suspension of its Bentley licence; recommence plans to drill at Bentley; demand a judicial review into regaining its expired PEL 426; and seek to activate its promised Casino production licence PPLA9.
Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham immediately slammed the announcement, saying the company was ‘belligerent’ and ‘did not have a social licence to operate in the northern rivers’.
‘It’s outrageous and belligerent that this company would sue taxpayers for compensation and threaten to resume drilling when their social licence to operate in the northern rivers has so comprehensively been rejected,’ Mr Buckingham said.
‘If Metgasco go back to Bentley, then the community will be there to meet them in large numbers and with determination to protect the land and water,’ he added.
‘It is not up to taxpayers to bailout this company who have comprehensively failed to gain a social licence to operate and they should not be trying to extort the NSW Government.
But he said the government had ‘no one but themselves to blame for this huge mess.’
‘The government and Shooters Party recently voted down a Greens bill that would have banned coal seam gas in the northern rivers,’ he added.
Mr Buckingham called on Lismore MP Thomas George to speak up on the matter.
‘He promised to have the licence cancelled by 30 June 2015, yet here we have Metgasco forcing their way back to Bentley.’
At the end of the day, you can’t factor into your business plan having to call on police to act as security for your proposal. – Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis
Although there was no word from Mr George, Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis has spoken out about the company’s plans to return to the northern rivers and the expectation that it would receive police protection.
‘Mining laws across the state are being reviewed to ensure that it’s not just the value of the resource that’s given weight in any approval process,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
‘I think the best option for all parties is for Metgasco to come back to the negotiating table,’ he added.
‘At the end of the day, you can’t factor into your business plan having to call on police to act as security for your proposal. It’s not the we do business in this country, so Metgasco has to have a look at its own operation and the viability of actually undertaking that activity in the northern rivers,’ Mr Gulaptis said.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Aidan Ricketts said the company’s plan could backfire.
‘They might hope to force the government’s hand to give them compensation more quickly but they could well force the government’s hand into cancelling Metgasco’s licences entirely with very limited compensation,’ he said.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith again reaffirmed her determination to stand by the community on the barricades if it came to that.
‘Should that drill rig come anywhere near our beautiful northern rivers rest assured I will be standing on the frontline with the community at Bentley.’