On the frontline
DOUBTFUL Creek, south of Kyogle, is the new front line in the struggle to stop CSG mining in the Northern Rivers. While the focus has shifted there from Glenugie, south of Grafton, where to date some 36 people have been arrested, the action has not abated. On Wednesday, February 6, two more arrests were made after a 'Mad Max-style' vehicle was immobilised at the gates of the Metgasco compound, stopping the drill rig from exiting to commence operations at Doubtful Creek.
Sixty people were on hand to see the vehicle smothered in foam by Rural Fire Service volunteers after the driver was extracted and taken away by police. Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson described the actions of people there as "lawless" and "unnacceptable".
Meanwhile, at Doubtful Creek, three people, including two Githabul elders, were arrested as another 40-strong phalanx of riot police arrived on
Monday, February 4. The police showed up again on Tuesday to hold back the 200-odd protestors, an unlikely alliance of local farmers, Githabul people and townies from as far afield as Lismore, Grafton and Brisbane.
Jarmbi, a Githabul spokesman, said they'd been preparing for a reconciliation ceremony when police first arrived, to oust the 15 camped there on Monday morning. "Kamally (Githabul elder) was trying to talk to them, and next thing he was being dragged away in handcuffs. They treated non-one with any respect, they just bullied their way in."
And the Federal Government has chimed in on this furiously contested issue, with Environment Minister Tony Burke declaring in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday;
"I cannot fathom why NSW, unlike the other states, thinks they should not be using the best qualified science and the best processes."
Independent MP Tony Windsor has also urged the government to enforce the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act before the September 14 Federal election.
The Echo spoke to local farmers and townsfolk on Sunday, February 3, at Doubtful Creek, where some 200 people had rallied for a peaceful picnic. Thousands of people recently took part in a survey in the Kyogle LGA area, including Doubtful Creek, with over 92% declaring that they want their land and roads to be CSG-free, aligning well with Lismore's 87% opposition posted at last year's Council elections.
Multi-generational farmers including Wayne Dixon, Don Knight and Don Durrant told how they had not been consulted about the drill pad, which lay near their properties in a paddock adjacent to rainforest and upstream from lush grazing land. They were well aware of the hazards of CSG mining and in complete accord with the Knitting Nannas, Githabul and other people around them.
Don Knight said his property was downhill from the drill site and he was concerned about the health of his cattle.
"Any overflow goes straight onto my property," he said. "I'm not satisfied with the assurances of Metgasco that this drilling is safe."
Wayne Dixon said that he would fight CSG drilling in the area till it was defeated, a sentiment shared by the other landholders gathered around.
Indeed Don Durrant was among local Rural Fire Service volunteers so incensed by the use of an RFS catering van to feed the police enforcing CSG mining that he publicly resigned on Tuesday.
Acting Superintendent Michael Dempsey maintained a dutiful stance.
"Officers are working... to ensure the company can lawfully access their site," he said. "Criminal offences and anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated."
But as far as the people holding the line at Doubtful Creek were concerned, the only anti-social behaviour was taking place within the new Metgasco compound.