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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Government offers to buy out Metgasco licences for $25m

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Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesman Ian Gaillard shakes the hand of Lismore MP Thomas George. (Darren Coyne)
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesman Ian Gaillard shakes the hand of Lismore MP Thomas George. (Darren Coyne)

The NSW Government has struck a $25 million deal with junior mining company Metgasco that could see the northern rivers region finally free of of the threat of gas fields.

The Metgasco board has agreed to accept the money in exchange for its Petroleum Exploration Licences 16, 13 and 426.

The deal is subject to the approval of Metgasco shareholders, who will soon meet to vote on the offer.

Lismore MP Thomas George made the announcement this morning, describing it as a ‘great win for the community and certainly recognition of north coast nationals.

End-of-year decision

‘The agreement is between the board and the government however I make it clear that this has to be accepted by the Metgasco shareholders and that meeting will take place and be finalised one way or the other by the end of this year,’ Mr George told media.

Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell has described this morning’s announcement as ‘great news’ while Gasfield Free Northern Rivers coordinator Ellie Bird said it was ‘a win’ for the people and ‘an early Christmas present’.

Mr George would not comment on whether the $25 million price tag for the PELs was considered high or low.

‘I’m just pleased that both parties have come to an agreement,’ he said.

He said the deal, if agreed to by shareholders, would bring an end to any further legal action from Metgasco.

Mr George, who had earlier announced that he will retire at the next election, admitted that the CSG issue had been the most difficult of his political career, admitting that he and members of his family had received death threats.

With a little prompting from media, Mr George and anti-CSG campaigner Ian Gaillard shook hands to celebrate the milestone announcement.

‘I think its a very timely announcement. The community of the northern rivers have been on tenterhooks. There’s been a lot of anxiety about the intrusion of these speculative mining companies into the northern rivers without proper consultation,’ Mr Gaillard said.

‘It’s a great day. Probably about $22 million more than the company deserved but we’re happy and in the long run it’s a small price in the scheme of things to pay for a sustainable future, for water for future generations, and for the peace of mind for the people of the northern rivers that they won’t live in an industrialised gas field.’

Federal member for Page Kevin Hogan has welcomed the news.

‘The community spoke very loudly and they have been heard. I congratulate my state Nationals colleagues, Chris Gulaptis, Geoff Provest and Thomas George, for delivering on their promise to keep our region free from CSG mining,’ he said.

‘The previous Labor Government handed out these CSG licences, The Nationals have now delivered on a CSG-Free northern rivers.”

‘Since the election, the Coalition government has reduced the area of NSW under CSG licences from 60 per cent under the previous Labor government to less than 8 per cent.

‘I am sure shareholders will examine this proposal in good faith,’ Mr Hogan said.

Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said it was fantastic and historic news which showed the strength of people power.

‘This is historic victory for people power, which through unity and determination has ejected this toxic industry from their community.  The Greens celebrate and are proud to have been a part of making the Northern Rivers gasfield free,’ Mr Buckingham said.

‘The Greens urge shareholders to accept the generous offer from the government as the only route out of a quagmire after Metgasco’s management failed to gain a social licence to drill for coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers.

‘Both the company and the NSW Government wanted gas extraction to occur in the Northern Rivers, and have been dragged kicking and screaming to this position.  This demonstrates the importance of a social licence, and the power of the people to stop operations that the community believes are highly detrimental.

‘If the government had been truly listening to the community, rather than trying to implement quick political fixes, it may have acted in a way to stop coal seam gas without having to pay out so much taxpayer money.  The Greens have moved numerous bills and amendments that would have banned coal seam gas, not only in the northern rivers, but state-wide.

‘$25 million is a large sum, and I join many in the community in questioning whether Metgasco’s failures should be compensated by taxpayers.  But in the end, $25 million is not a lot compared to protecting the land, water, communities and other industries of the Northern Rivers and to give people long-term certainty,’ he said.

Greens member for Ballina, Tamara Smith said many people voted Greens in Ballina and Lismore at the last election to send a message on coal seam gas.

‘Today’s events demonstrate that voting Greens is powerful.’

National Party media statement

National Party member for Lismore, Thomas  George, said the government has commended an agreement by the Metgasco board with the NSW Government for the purchase of Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) 16, 13 and 426, which is a major step towards making the northern rivers coal seam gas (CSG) free.

He said the Nationals’ parliamentary team ‘strongly encourages Metgasco’s shareholders to accept this opportunity’.

Parliamentary secretary for the north coast, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, said the NSW Nationals were ‘achieving for the north coast through the successful PEL buy back process, which had reduced Labor-issued PELs in the northern rivers from seven to Metgasco’s remaining three.’

‘I urge the PEL shareholders to accept this offer from the NSW Government, which recognises both the investment that Metgasco has made while also the community’s concerns about the industry’ Mr Gulaptis said.

‘Our track record is clear – we have not issued any new licences since 2011 and instead, cancelled, reduced and bought back existing licences,’ Mr Gulaptis added.

MR George said the government’s offer to the PEL owner followed the successful buyback and cancellation of PEL 445 covering 565,693 hectares around Kyogle, Lismore, Nimbin and Evans Head last month and of PEL 457, covering 75,000 hectares west of Yamba, in September.

‘The NSW Nationals parliamentary team is committed to rectifying the CSG mess left behind by Labor and protecting our precious resources,’ Mr George said.

‘To date, the NSW Government through buybacks has reduced the State’s CSG footprint to under eight per cent – a massive difference from the 60 per cent Labor left behind,’ he added.

The Hon Ben Franklin MLC said the northern rivers community should ‘feel confident the NSW Nationals are committed to getting results.’

‘Today’s news show the NSW Government’s commitment to investing in the local community,’ Mr Franklin said.

He added the NSW government had bought back 17 PELs across the State, covering more than five million hectares.


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    • Yes, that’s the price of Labor’s stuff up, chasing quick revenue just a few years ago.

      But if FRACKING were to go ahead, a cleanup bill of $25 BILLION, may not even touch the surface of the underground toxicity that would have surely resulted.

      A small price on a governmental level, but a huge win for future clean water and agriculture, which is a basic right for us all.

      How can our community celebrate the many dedicated Lock The Gate water and agriculture custodians for this massive achievement?

  1. My main hope is that this expensive lesson will make pollies of all political persuasion rather more cautious in future instead of getting starry eyed over money no matter how tainted it might be. If in doubt, don’t do it. Not for me perhaps but for my great grandchildren

  2. why is everyone celebrating? i’m sure readers are feeling the same way I am – disgusted
    it indicates Metgasco know they are stuffed. It’s Georges way of ensuring his son has money in his pocket for his own future. Why are all these anti CSG people commenting on how wonderful this is?
    George gets to act like he’s a hero and pretend he’s always wanted this, all the way along. Which we all know is a lie. He would have LOVED Metgasco to get firmly established anywhere and everywhere

    The best possible thing for us is for the shareholders to reject this offer, for Metgasco to realise they have to try and keep going, and for all the opposition
    Otherwise, this way they get money, they bow out from all the active opposition, and the people lose
    Everyone appears to be saying ‘oh this is keeping the region safe’. But the region would be safe because we wouldn’t let metgasco do anything. And we’d enjoy watching them financially go to ruin
    This only helps them work on doing the same thing all over again, somewhere else

    What really needs to happen, is for people to do whatever we can to thwart, abort block and prevent this money from being handed over
    Metgasco need to stay stuck in the legal and financial stalemate they created and suffer the consequences as they attempt to move ahead
    How dare Ian and Tamara and others act like this is some kind of victory?

  3. this can be only called one thing

    A massive fuck you to the community

    ‘we’ll do what we like’

    nothing good about this whatsoever

  4. I totally agree with Jen. The State Government is supposedly elected by the People to govern on behalf of the People. For too long NSW has been held in the sway of mining companies & property developers (companies aren’t People – legislation should not reflect their wishes & priorities). Now the People get to PAY to have their will respected. Profligate waste of tax-payers funds – this nepotism & cronyism can’t go on (the State will go broke with the greed of it). Thank you Greens – it was undoubtedly loss of votes to your party that woke the rest of the dopey party hacks up. Your actions – not the National Party’s will be well remembered by me.

  5. It was Thomas George who renewed the licence gratis ( for Free ), to a company where his son is an executive officer, and now Thomas Presides over a taxpayer funded bail out of an incompetent company, who merely held a right to prospect . How do you feel about being duped to the tune of 25 Million dollars ?

  6. Giving 25 mil to Metgasco makes me feel sick in the stomach. To think of the services that will have to suffer whilst Thomas George hands out money to a company that his son is an employee of does not warrant him a hero. Even though he will be milking It for all its worth pre-election.This is essentially saying sorry to a company for not letting them poison our wster.Happy to have them gone but they deserve nothing.

  7. Ian, Ellie, Jenny, Jeremy, Tamara – you’ve let us down. And you, Ian – how dare you be persuaded to shake that persons hand?

    You all should have said, NO, on the public record we say NO, this is WRONG we do NOT support this, this is BAD for our country, this kind of precendent can NOT be allowed to occur, this kind of decision has really serious consequences on a whole number of levels, this is offensive and insulting,, we do NOT agree, we have not worked for years to end up with this, and WHOSE christmas present exactly is this?

    You should all be ashamed of yourselves

  8. Mr George MP, is quoted as saying, “The NSW Nationals parliamentary team is committed to rectifying the CSG mess left behind by Labor and protecting our precious resources.” I think he should have included the word “toxic” ie “CSG toxic mess,” because that is what it is. The NSW Government’s Code of Practice – Well Integrity says, “Wells, like any constructed asset, can deteriorate with age, operational and site specific conditions. This can lead to the well no longer being suitable for the intended use. Well monitoring and maintenance is required to preserve the well and its component parts in good repair for the life of the well.” End quote. So the pipes corrode and rust and the cement casing cracks, shrinks and does not fill every gap. How long then is,” for the life of the well?” For a mining company “the life of the well” ends when the gas slows and it is not profitable; so they cap it and drill more wells. For the environment, people, land, water and livestock “the life of the well” is FOREVER ! The government must buyback the Santos, Narrabri project over the recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin. The Federal Government needs to include “The Right To A Healthy Environment” into our constitution and stop using the “Mining is a State issue,” argument to avoid responsibility. CSG moves ahead because of the State’s conflict of interest ie Treasury & Approval. CSG approval is the issue that will continue to remove MPs & Govt’s from office, State & Federal. We would be lost without the power of our vote.

  9. $25Million – that’s about $3.30 from every person in NSW: to be rid of this mob for good. I’d call that money well spent to get us out of the situation both major parties put us in. Now the gov’t should just charge the mining industry a levy to recover the money and put it back into the budget. Because the whole mining industry was cheering Metgasco on – let THEM pay!
    As for attacks on the people who led the campaign so well: A handshake with a defeated foe is no disgrace!! It HAS been a historic victory, and there are more to come. We must stop fossil fuel mining entirely!!

  10. If the government had been truly listening to us all, instead of trying to implement quick political fixes for their mining mates, they may have acted to stop coal seam gas and not been forced to pay out so much of our taxpayer money. The Greens have moved numerous bills and amendments that would have banned coal seam gas, not only in the Northern Rivers, but state-wide. Bills put up to allow landholders to have the right to say no to gas companies have been ignored. The Nationals have said no to those bills and blocked The Greens from implementing these protections. This clearly indicates that, had it not been for grass roots people power, the Nationals would NEVER have resorted to buying out any PELs in the Northern Rivers. They have been shamed into acting by a stong community unwilling for drilling.

  11. My TEAM OF INDEPENDENTS proposes to remove State Governments. We are no longer a 6 or 7 colonial outpost realm of Britain… and we are, hopefully, to be made both an international leader and participant in the world environment renovation movement. Those of us who cannot foresee a war type situation arising out of our worldwide need for fresh water, have no place in Government, in either Australian or overseas.


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