Gas vs people — Tara ignites the fight

March 19, 2011
Tara community blockade, March 14.
Tara community blockade, March 14. Photo: Scott Mackinnon

More than 100 protesters joined a March 14 blockade of the Queensland Gas Corporation (QGC) gasworks on the QGC-owned property “Kenya” near Tara, 300 kilometres west of Brisbane.

The Kenya blockade, which received coverage on all major news networks, covered a number of entrances to the vast property. It was the first widely-publicised action of civil disobedience in the national “Lock The Gate” campaign.

The “Lock The Gate” campaign — an alliance of farmers, landholders and environmentalists — is demanding a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) mining.

Tara, a mix of farming and residential properties, is leading the fight against corporations such as QGC, which, with the support of state and federal governments, are rapidly marching across the country in a winner-takes-all gas bonanza.

Current laws allow companies such as QGC to enter properties without landholder permission, and begin sinking gas wells and building associated infrastructure, offering piecemeal compensation while reaping huge profits.

Green Left Weekly asked Scott Collins, a Tara resident leading the campaign in his community, what CSG meant for Tara.

“Destruction,” he said. “They’re going to destroy it. They take that much land off you, they bulldoze that many trees, the property’s worthless.

“No one wants to buy a property with a gas well, and I don’t blame them, because I don’t want to live in a gas field. They’re going to turn a beautiful area of Queensland into a wasteland.

“It really impacts on farmers’ production and food production. And then you’ve got the other issue — if they take huge amounts of water out of aquifers that farmers use to irrigate, it’s obviously going to have an impact on food as well.”

Collins explained the tactics QGC uses to gain consent from landholders.

“It’s so difficult to negotiate from such a weak position. They’ve got the strength, they’ve got the government, they’ve got the money to splash around the community to buy the community’s support, because that’s what they do.

“They come in and they donate money to charity, and to the local footy club, and give a false impression to the community that they actually care for the community.”

Collins said the battle for Tara is a seminal one.

“We’ve been one of the few groups that’s got the guts to stand up to these corporations.”

“What happens here could set the scene for what happens with the industry and for
landholders. This is where it’s happening, and if we don’t win, we’re lost forever.”

[For details Lock The Gate.]


Go Tara! Dayne Pratzky spoke at yesterday's big Sydney rally about what's going on in Tara, video here:

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