A blockade by activists opposed to the production of coal seam gas (CSG) at Glenugie, near Grafton in northern NSW, has shown determined opposition to drilling in the area since the blockade started eight weeks ago.
CSG Free Northern Rivers, a community group based in the Clarence Valley, has campaigned to keep the Northern Rivers region free of coal seam gas through protests and non-violent direct action.
The blockade began on November 20. Fifty activists blocked the gates to a farming property that was due to host drilling operations by gas company Metgasco.
The blockade has grown in size and strength. It stopped Metgasco from bringing drilling equipment onto the site on December 10, when the community turned out in huge numbers.
Opposition to the industry has steadily grown since exploration began in the region in the early 2000s.
There are now more than 20 groups active against coal seam gas mining in the Northern Rivers region. Communities have organised letter-writing to politicians and large demonstrations of thousands of people.
The people of the region have mobilised regardless of political persuasion and the grassroots campaign continues to grow in strength and diversity.
CSG Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Annie Kia said on January 8: “The whole blockade has been an outstanding example of the determination and spirit of local communities in their defence of the natural environment and community values that they love and cherish.
“This blockade has proven that communities are prepared to band together and peacefully protest against an industry that is unsafe and unwanted and we are likely to see these sort of actions in other parts of our region under threat from coal seam gas operations.”
That day, 60 police and riot police descended on the site to break up the blockade.
Two hundred protesters were present and it took police seven hours to clear the site. Eighteen people were arrested.
Metgasco vehicles were then able to enter the drill site.
Six people who were arrested refused bail conditions and were held overnight. Their cases were heard in court the next day.
Law lecturer and CSG Free Northern Rivers campaigner Aiden Ricketts said: “Today’s action was a massive show of force from the NSW police that will do nothing to dent the resolve of Northern Rivers residents to stay CSG free.”
Anti-coal seam gas campaigner Lynette Eggins told the Northern Star that the “events were just the beginning of the community opposition that Metgasco and other coal seam gas companies could expect to face into the future”.
Despite Metgasco gaining entry to the site, the community remains committed to a CSG-free region and has continued campaigning and picketing at the Glenugie site. Since last September, Metgasco's share price has dropped by a third.
[CSG Free Northern Rivers is calling for support. For more information, contact Annie Kia on 0427 772 670 or Aidan Ricketts on 0417 265 263, or visit the website.]