Miranda Divine has an important story today about a farmer under siege because he has said ‘yes’ to a gas company drilling on his property for conventional gas. And the thugs and interlopers blocking access to his property and causing outright vandalism (digging a ditch with metal spikes) simply refuse to stop their activities, even after being instructed by the police to do so.
Here’s the thing, the supposed aim of the Lock the Gate protest movement is to give farmers and other landowners the right to say NO to coal and CSG. In reality, it is a deeply totalitarian and oppressive movement that wants to FORCE ALL FARMERS AND LANDOWNERS TO SAY NO.
Read this piece and weep:
IN the lush pastures of the northern rivers region, an unholy alliance of local anti-gas protesters and imported green extremists is making life hell for farmer Pete Graham and his family.
They have farmed near Casino for five generations, but their decision to allow gas company Metgasco to drill on their land for natural gas — not coal seam gas — has turned into a nightmare.
Hundreds of protesters have been camped around their property for weeks, blocking their driveways with cars and intimidating everyone going in and out. Peter’s wife, seven-year-old twins and parents are under virtual siege. His gates have been repeatedly padlocked and welded shut and a concrete trench with metal spikes dug into his driveway. If he takes cattle to market, he has to ask council for a security escort to get out his gate.
And in nearby Casino, business owners were harassed by anonymous letters last week, threatening a boycott of the town.
“It’s out of control,” Graham, 44, said yesterday of the campaign of intimidation.
“They’ve been told by police not to enter our property and they continually disobey the requests.”
This is the dark side of the campaign against coal seam gas. While apprehension about the impacts on prime agricultural land of gas exploration is real, extreme green fanatics have exploited those fears for their own ends.
Posing as farmer’s friends, professional vigilante activists are dangerous bedfellows for the grassroots anti-gas movement. Their criminal harassment of farmers and contractors and total opposition to all fossil fuels will, in the end, turn off the public and divide communities.
The fact is NSW has the most stringent regulations in the world over gas exploration. Last week the state government oversaw a deal between landowner groups and big energy companies to give farmers veto over drilling on their properties.
Under Australian law, underground resources are owned by the crown and landholders were obliged to provide access to coal seam gas companies, whether they wanted to or not. This imposition inspired the influential Lock The Gate lobby.
But now, under pressure from NSW Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts, Santos and AGL have agreed to forfeit their right to demand access. Roberts has also imposed a six month freeze on new exploration, and further stringent environmental controls.
And that should be the end of the matter, for reasonable people.
Farmers like the Grahams who want to allow drilling on their land should be entitled to do so, as long as the drilling is done in accordance with these tough regulations.
“I’m not an advocate for the industry, never have been, never will be, but as a regulator, we need to ensure that, as the gas industry moves forward, it is based on science and community consultation,” Roberts said.
“Some of activists have shown it’s not about access to farmers’ land but a fundamental hatred of mining or any fossil fuel extraction.
“We cannot become a nation of social workers and clients of social workers. We need to produce something if our children want jobs; cheap energy, as long as it’s done correctly, is the way to go.”
Compared to Queensland, highly regulated NSW is already missing out on the benefits of the gas boom (which was driven in large part by the demonisation of coal by carbon-phobics).
There is nothing left to protest against. “But the extreme elements will only be happy when they have sent us back to the pushbike and horse and cart,” Graham said.
Casino Chamber of Commerce, neutral on gas exploration, is having the last laugh. They’ve turned the attempted boycott into a marketing opportunity. They have taken out full page ads in their local newspaper declaring Casino “open for business”. Bravo Casino!