Fight against gas

Estella Bethune, 9, of Keerrong and Judi Emmett from the Keerrong Gas Squad with other anti-CSG activists who are holding a letterbox drop this Sunday in Lismore to promote a mass public meeting next Thursday.
Estella Bethune, 9, of Keerrong and Judi Emmett from the Keerrong Gas Squad with other anti-CSG activists who are holding a letterbox drop this Sunday in Lismore to promote a mass public meeting next Thursday.

Former dairy farmer Robert Morton was reared on the original Rock valley property where the Rosehill Buttery was established in 1875. He talks about those halcyon days when butter and cheese was transported to Lismore by bullock and shipped down the river far and wide, some of it finding its way to the halls of Parliament House.

"And that's where we'll end up if something's not done about coal seam gas," he says. "We don't want foreign greed to take over our basic needs - clean air and uncontaminated water. I love the land... and there's no way CSG can live in harmony with agriculture. I'm really concerned about the overriding of farmers' rights to their own land that's been owned and passed down for generations."

Robert is one of a hundred volunteers from anti-CSG groups around the region who are joining together this weekend to letterbox drop 12,000 homes in Lismore. They wish to spread the word about the dangers of CSG and call people to a public meeting next Thursday.

"We hope the meeting will give birth to a Lismore anti-CSG group - it's a bit strange that the regional capital doesn't have one but all the little valleys do," anti-CSG activist Simon Chance said. "If we can get Lismore to speak as a whole community, as a whole regional city, it will give more weight to the anti-CSG movement.

"Lismore sits right in the middle of what will be a huge gas field that will come right up to the city limits. It will have a huge impact with noise pollution, air pollution and contamination of our water."

The group aims to recruit people to doorknock on their own streets and encourage neighbourhoods to declare their street 'CSG free'. It's a concept already spreading throughout local villages and Lismore City Councillor Simon Clough said it will show the community is united in its opposition against the industry.

"It will send a very powerful political message," Cr Clough said. "Peter Henderson (Metgasco CEO) said if there's no 'social licence' to conduct CSG mining then they won't do it, so this is about showing them we are not giving them that social licence.

"This is not about rural or urban because it's about water - and last time I checked people in Lismore still drank water. No one is safe from this," he said. "In Metgasco's licence areas, 7.3 gigalitres of wastewater can reasonably be expected to be produced per annum when they are in production - that's 15 Sydney Harbours - and 14,600 tonnes of salt. This produced water may not only contain chemicals from fracking but also naturally occurring toxins which are dangerous to humans, livestock and other animals.

"We have no protection against CSG in government legislation - it's a public health nightmare."

Simon Chance said the time to gather support was long overdue and Lismore needed to be fully engaged in the fight against CSG with Metgasco and Arrow Energy both holding exploration licences in the region.

"It's become extremely urgent and important to have a united voice - in 12 months those exploratory licences are likely to become active licences," he said.

The leaflets will be dropped in letterboxes in all built up areas in Lismore to try and raise a massive groundswell of support in the city.

The public meeting will be held at the Lismore Workers Club next Thursday, March 1, from 7pm. Speakers include Mayor Jenny Dowell, Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith from the National Toxics Network, Greens MLC and deputy chair of the NSW Upper House CSG Inquiry Jeremy Buckingham, Norco chairman Greg McNamara, psychologist and beef producer Wayne Somerville and Amelia Telford from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

People are still being sought to help get the flier into people's letterboxes and volunteers will meet at 10am in the Rotunda in Spinks Park this Sunday, February 26, to begin the distribution.

If you can help, phone Simon Chance on 6624 2217 or for information, phone Wanda Halden on 0427 302 725.

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