Saturday 12 July 2014


The suspension of Metgasco's licence to test drill for gas at Bentley (the Rosella well) north west of Casino (originally imposed February 6, 2014) was reviewed by the Office of Coal Seam Gas (OCSG) recently.  In extending the suspension the Director of OCSG stated that the company had still not met the requirements in relation to community consultation.

The company is required to undertake "genuine and effective consultation with the community" and to develop a community consultation plan.  In order for the consultation to be effective "those involved must represent a wide range of community interests".

While Metgasco had engaged in some consultation this was not considered sufficiently broad and it had not developed a community consultation plan which should have identified the relevant community interests.  The OCSG Executive Summary of its decision listed other community interests which should have been included -  Lismore and Kyogle Councils, local Chambers of Commerce, environment and other interested community groups.

The increase in local opposition to the proposed well was also referred to:  "Metrgasco's decision to defer a broader consultation program until after the Rosella Exploration Well had been drilled was not reasonable given the escalation of opposition to the activity in the Northern Rivers from the beginning of the year."

Metgasco's arrogance in failing to improve its community consultation after the initial suspension is in line with its attitude to general community concerns about gas mining, an attitude which has been obvious since it started operations in the Northern Rivers.

It is almost certain that the support the industry has had from both the NSW and federal governments has encouraged this attitude.  For example the NSW Government's help in breaking the Glenugie and Doubtful Creek blockades (at considerable expense to the public purse) was vital to undertaking those test drillings. And it is only recently that the local state National Party Members of Parliament in the Northern Rivers have withdrawn their active support for Metgasco.  And the reason is obvious - the imminence of the NSW elections to be held in March 2015.  And federal governments of both persausions have been loud in their support for gas mining and in many cases have condemned local communities for their opposition to the industry.

Metgasco has launched court proceedings against the NSW Government.  The case will be heard in October. 

Gasfield Free Northern Rivers believes that because of  "the damning evidence against Metgasco it is likely that the government will be reluctant to force invasive gas drilling on an unwilling community in an election year.  Nevertheless, the community remains vigilant and will watch the court case closely."