Story & photos Cloudcatcher Media
News spread quickly across the northern rivers yesterday that the NSW Government had offered Metgasco $25 million to abandon their remaining PELs in the area.
An impromptu gathering of community members and gasfield activists converged on Riverside Park Lismore at lunchtime to celebrate what they hope to be the end of the threat which has hung over the region for years. The board has already accepted the offer. The final decision rests with Metgasco shareholders.
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell was glowing and very relieved by the news. ‘The joy, first of all, my first reaction was to let out a holler that I think disturbed the whole council chambers when I heard it on ABC News, and then just the relief, and then a period of reflection.
‘I’ve gone through a lot of emotions. I actually unrolled a couple of the 309 scrolls I’ve got in my office, and I saw Henson Road, and other roads around this place where people even up to three years ago were saying “we don’t want this”, so it feels like a fabulous day.
‘I’m not quite up to the champagne popping yet, because I want the shareholders to agree unanimously as well, but this is fantastic, this is what we’ve all worked for.’
Longtime anti-gasfield activist Ian Gaillard was among the jubilant crowd. Ian was excited about the decision and looked as if a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. ‘Australia may be open for business but I’m open for hugs!’ he said, proceeding to hug everyone in sight, including Mayor Jenny Dowell.
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan gave credit to the gasfield-free movement for the victory. ‘I am ecstatic, and I think what this community should be very proud of, is this community did this. Every man woman and child who was prepared to say “I do not want this industry in this region for all these reasons”.
‘They stood up, and were heard. This says to the government they need to listen to the community.’
The Bentley Angel, though not in her usual position in the sky on a tripod, was celebrating with strawberries and champagne among the other revellers on the grass. She said she was excited and ecstatic about the news. ‘I’m on cloud nine,’ she said.
Everyone was in high spirits in the park. It was a great chance for many who had fought shoulder to shoulder to clink some glasses in celebration.
Jenny Dowell said the first thing she did was to send an SMS to Thomas George. ‘I don’t know if he’ll respond to me, but I did say “thank you, thank you, thank you.” And I also sent an email to Peter Henderson, and said “thank you”.
‘They were genuine thank yous, because they both had to come to the table on this, but the biggest thank you of all must be to the community. The community stood strong and united through years of this.
‘I think it’s really important that we don’t just drift away. I think it’s a time for a well-organised, united celebration, once we hear that the shareholders have also said “yes”’.