MORE than 100 campaigners have staged a rally in front of the national conference on the coal seam gas industry, demanding an end to the controversial mining.
As delegates inside listened to New South Wales Resources Minister Chris Hartcher spruik the billions of dollars CSG could potentially deliver to the state and national economies, Lock the Gate and Northern River Guardians took their spot beneath a tree where they sang, chanted and occasionally yelled "lock the gate".
A strong police presence was in place to keep an eye on the peaceful protestors, many of whom travelled from northern New South Wales.
Lock The Gate campaigner Scott Sledge said the event peaked at about 200 people, with many catching a train from the Gold Coast after first journeying from further south.
He said representatives from Ipswich, Central Queensland, Toowoomba, Brisbane and Gold Coast had also arrived.
About 650 delegates attended the first full day of the three-day conference organised by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.
In his speech, Mr Hartcher accused green groups of creating an irresponsible debate about coal seam gas, particularly in the areas of Lismore, Casino and Gunnedah.
Mr Hartcher said NSW needed to follow the lead of Queensland, where the CSG industry was beginning to mature to ensure gas supply and to ease rising power prices.
It was a growing industry that could transform parts of regional NSW into economic hubs, much like the resources industry had done for pockets of Queensland, he said.
The minister said "irresponsible" groups were spreading distorted and inaccurate information about CSG, an industry, he said, which was poised to pump huge amounts into government coffers.
"(The debate) has been marked by the green movement that has distorted figures and simply uses the Gaslands movie from the United States which, of course, does not relate to operations here," Mr Hartcher said.
The film illustrates how gas mining has delivered environmental and health problems in parts of the US.
Mr Hartcher was later quizzed by a gas company staffer who asked how the government and industry could put the true science above the noise of a concerted social media campaign.
The minister said "truth was the only salvation".
"It is a distortion of facts they have engaged in, and engaged in quite massively when they know them to be untrue," he said.
"The government tries to set the record straight and it has set up the policy framework.
"But industry needs to get out there and sell the message.
"One of the biggest problems, to be brutally honest, is that industry hasn't sold the message. That has created a vacuum where the green movement has moved in.
"Unless (CSG mining) is properly presented, there will be irrational and uninformed debate."
But Mr Sledge said the groups were not spreading disinformation, but "real information".
He said Mr Hartcher himself spoke of CSG dangers as early as 2005.
"This is not a small minority of people," Mr Sledge said.
"We represent the majority of Australians but not everyone can come to Brisbane on a weekday."
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