Metgasco shareholders have voted to accept the NSW Government’s $25 million CSG licence buyback offer which means the northern rivers will remain gasfield free and protected by community.
The results, which were published on the ASX website at 2.02pm were closer than expected.
The state government’s offer, made last month, was endorsed by the company’s board of directors but had to be approved by shareholders in order to be valid.
That vote was taken today at Metgasco’s delayed annual general meeting.
The motion received 152,468,468 ‘yes’ votes, 108,564,386 ‘no’ votes and 634,075 abstentions.
A group of farmers and community members from the northern rivers travelled to Sydney yesterday to attend today’s general meeting and to witness the vote and the final act in a long and difficult journey to remain gasfield free.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers Regional Coordinator, Dean Draper told Echonetdaily the mood among them was ‘ecstatic’.
‘This is something we’ve looked forward to for many years,’ he said.
‘Finally some closure and an end to the torment and fear that has pervaded the northern rivers since this company started mining for coal seam gas here.
‘This gas mining company never achieved a social licence here, they have never been welcome, our community has demonstrated loudly and clearly in many surveys, marches and actions that this dangerous industry is not acceptable here under any circumstances.
‘Taking the buyout deal was the best way out for Metgasco, they would never have been able to operate here. It’s just a pity they didn’t take our advice and earlier as they would have saved themselves and the government a lot of money.
‘Finally the people of the northern rivers can get on with their lives. The community will again have the confidence in the safety and long term sustainability of the region which is sure to fuel a lot of investment and growth in our region.’ Mr Draper said.
According to Mr Draper, Metgasco MD Peter Henderson announced to the meeting that the NSW Government had indicated it would not provide the company with police support if it pushed ahead with its northern rivers licences.
‘This news upset shareholders,’ Mr Draper said.
He added that some shareholders wanted reassurance that the government would not reissue the licences to another company.
AAP reported that Metgasco plans to use the proposed $25 million government compensation to acquire oil and gas assets from distressed sellers.
‘It is our expectation that in the first six months of 2016, distressed sellers will continue to bring assets to the market,’ Mr Henderson told shareholders.
‘There are many approaches we will consider, from acquisitions, to farm ins and mergers,’ he added.
Ballina MP thanks community
NSW Greens Ballina MP Tamara Smith is thanking all who contributed to the campaign for a coal seam gas free northern rivers and has heralded today’s news as recognition of the region’s ‘people power’.
‘The deal has been sealed and our community is finally being delivered the protection against invasive gas fields it has so loudly called for,’ Ms Smith said.
‘We saw unprecedented community opposition to the industrialisation of our region across all sectors of society- doctors, nurses, teachers, farmers and artists, all in unanimous refrain.’
‘I too stood with the protectors at Bentley, Lock the Gate, Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, our Knitting Nannas and the tens of thousands in our community as we demanded an end to this toxic industry.’ Ms Smith said.
‘Following Bentley- the battle continued at the ballot box.
The March state election on the north coast was clearly a referendum on coal seam gas, and to all those who spoke with a green vote, you have been heard.’
‘It is disappointing the future of our pristine environment has been on a precipice at the mercy of a mining company rather than being protected by government legislation.
‘But the power of our tight-knit community propelled together by a common cause has prevailed and we’ve set a precedent for others challenging environmental threats in their own backyard,’ Ms Smith said.
‘This is a watershed moment: 2015 will go down in history as the year we established a coal seam gas free northern rivers.’
Lesson to Santos, AGL, coal
Meanwhile Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said ‘the Metgasco fiasco was a lesson about the importance of earning a social licence to operate’.
‘The Metgasco fiasco highlights the importance of earning a social licence to operate in a community. Metgasco patently failed to do this and the shareholders have paid the price,’ Mr Buckingham said.
‘Neither AGL in Gloucester, nor Santos in the North West have earned a social licence from those communities and should heed what has happened to Metgasco when contemplating the future of their coal seam gas projects.
‘New coal mines also do not have a social licence, with significant community opposition as well as widespread concern about the impact on the climate.
‘The goals of the Paris climate agreement will only be met if we phase out fossil fuels and that clearly means new fossil fuel industries, such as coal seam gas, must be prohibited,’ he said.