Metgasco

It is rare to see such a powerful film as Brendan Shoebridge’s The Bentley Effect, which focuses on the successful struggle by Northern Rivers communities to save their land and water from the coal seam gas juggernaut at Bentley, near Lismore, in New South Wales.

The power of community is often talked about, but this film shows how it actually happened, in a powerful tale of political awakening among several generations.

Gas miner Metgasco's surprise announcement on November 2 that it was recommending its shareholders accept a $25 million payout for its three remaining exploration licences in NSW's Northern Rivers, near Lismore, was celebrated right across the state.

Anti-fracking campaigners, who have worked hard for more than three years, educating, organising and mobilising communities against the industry, are very relieved.

Metgasco is upping the ante in its bid to drill for unconventional gas in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales. Activists are even more determined to protect the region’s land and water.

After Metgasco announced it would be carrying out pre-fracking seismic tests, Lismore council voted 5 to 2 on October 13 to refuse access to the gas company’s equipment.

As we head towards the November 29 People’s Climate Marches, reflecting on the successes of the struggle against the unconventional gas industry in NSW can provide useful tips on strategies to rebuild a serious campaign for climate action in this country.

Militant ordinary people have, since 2011, forced the unconventional gas industry in NSW into a holding pattern in some instances and a retreat in others. The community-led campaigns have changed the political landscape in a way that even hardened cynics would once have thought impossible.

Gas company Metgasco is so determined to drill for unconventional gas in northern NSW it is prepared to make enemies of old friends — the NSW Coalition government.

On September 1, Metgasco declared it was halting talks with Mike Baird's government and suing it for damages.

Activists are hoping that a bill to tighten the rules governing unconventional gas exploration and production in New South Wales will pass the Legislative Council on August 13.

Such is the groundswell of opposition to this part of the fossil fuel industry, a Greens Bill has support from NSW Labor and a couple of small right-wing parties.

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham told Green Left Weekly that he expects the Bill to pass, with amendments proposed by Labor.

About 8000 people from across NSW’s Northern Rivers region gathered in Lismore on November 1 for a rally to declare the region gasfield free.

Protesters marched through Lismore CBD to demand the government cancel all petroleum licences in the region.

It then officially launched four large signs at each of the roads leading into the region, proclaiming: "Gasfield Free Northern Rivers – protected by community.”

Organiser Elly Bird said: "This community is saying loud and clear that they want full cancellation of the licenses across the region, and nothing less will serve.

“A huge win for people power” is how campaigners describe the victory against gas company Metgasco, which had its exploration licence at Bentley suspended by the New South Wales government on May 15.

But it took several years of systematic campaigning to get to this decision.

I spent time at the Bentley blockade over May 17 to 19 and spoke to protectors, organisers and participants who were still shocked at the NSW government’s decision.

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