Saturday 15 May is the seventh anniversary of Victory Day at the Bentley Blockade, just west of Lismore.
With 800 riot police expected to face off against a broad coalition of Northern Rivers citizens in their thousands, the NSW government blinked at the last minute and stopped the proposed unconventional mining operation at Bentley, using the excuse of lack of community consultation and referring Metgasco to ICAC.
News of the win that morning was met with spontaneous cheers, joy and tears from the assembled community at the tent city of Camp Liberty, adjoining the proposed drill site on farming land belonging to the Scarrabelotti family.
This was a startling demonstration of people power, the culmination of years of struggle and community organisation across the Northern Rivers, including dramatic blockades at Shannonbrook, Glenugie and Doubtful Creek.
The Bentley victory marked the end of coal seam gas and other unconventional gas exploration in the Northern Rivers of NSW.
At the time, Lock the Gate President and historian Drew Hutton compared the importance of Bentley to the Eureka Stockade, saying it heralded a new era in Australia, and the beginning of the end of mining-related corruption in NSW and beyond.
While the Bentley victory put a major spanner in the works of the CSG industry in NSW, the industry has since found a government-sanctioned path to industrialise the Pilliga Forest near Narrabri (in spite of overwhelming public opposition). CSG, tight sands, and shale drilling and fracking has gathered pace in Queensland, the NT, WA and elsewhere.
In NSW, police powers have also been strengthened in an attempt to prevent ‘another Bentley’.
Federally, COVID recovery funds have been used by gas interests to provide corporate welfare for their operations as a ‘bridging fuel’, despite evidence that fugitive emissions from unconventional gas more than outweigh any supposed benefits over burning coal.
But Bentley remains as a shining example of what a well-informed, passionate community, powered by love and science, can achieve.
Unfortunately the district is now facing a new threat, with a proposal for a massively expanded quarry on a long-dormant site directly across the road from the old blockade site and Camp Liberty.
On Saturday 15 May the Bentley community and friends will gather at the big shed on the old Camp Liberty site at the corner of Bentley and Bungabee Roads from 9am-2pm for an impromptu community market day and for people to learn more about the quarry, and remember the anniversary of an historic victory.
This event is being organised by Bentley – Our Sustainable Future. Anyone is welcome to set up a stall, with attendance free for stall-holders and visitors. Organisers say there will be ‘fresh produce, farmers’ market, farm equipment, swap’n’sell, car-boot, trash’n’treasure, bric’a’brac, plants, books & chooks!’
There will also be tea, coffee and snacks available, as well as community information stalls.
For more information, visit the Facebook event site here.
Confusing Them With Our Joy
Among the stallholders at the Bentley Community Market will be the team from Cloudcatcher Media, who will be available to chat and demonstrate the triple screen technology used in their forthcoming epic about the Northern Rivers gas fight Confusing Them With Our Joy.
After years in the works, this spectacular multi-media show will be premiering in the Northern Rivers this October. Find out more at www.confusingthemwithourjoy.com.
You can watch Cloudcatcher Media’s newly released out-take of Luke Vassella performing his beautiful song ‘Born on Bundjalung Country’ at the Bentley Blockade below: