The message from country and city was clearly spelled out: the seven giant banners, unfurled in spectacular fashion on a Brisbane city cliff-face, stated coal and coal seam gas is not accepted by south-east Queensland regions and communities will continue to stand strongly opposed until the government puts water, food and health first.
The dramatic protest, witnessed from below by supporters and on-lookers, was one of a series of events which today conclude a national week of action against coal and coal seam gas.
Representatives from various south-east Queensland (SEQ) communities and city supporters gathered early for a sausage sizzle breakfast. Most are directly affected by coal seam gas and coal mining, either in exploration or production stage. Others joined to also show their concerns about the wider impacts of mining, including contamination of city water supplies and local food bowls.
Lock the Gate SEQ spokesperson Innes Larkin said the event highlighted the growing bond between those in the city and country, concerned about the full impacts of mining: ”Lock the Gate is now an alliance of 170 community groups across the country and it gets stronger every day. We are not traditional activists: we are real people who’re seeing first-hand the wider impacts of the rush for an easy dollar from coal seam gas and coal mining. It’s madness and we will do whatever it takes to make sure our message is heard: we need balance - water, land, health and communities must be given priority over mining.”
“If the Government and miners think rural communities will just take this lying down they’re wrong. People in the bush are angry and they are prepared to make a stand to protect where they live, their soil and their water. Now it’s time for those in the city to also understand their water and food supplies may be under threat. We must slow this down and do the science before the coal seam gas industry is allowed to expand in Queensland.”
“Farms with no water or with soil contaminated by salt are worth nothing. Communities overrun with miners are not healthy – they’re shattered. And prime tourist areas which become industrialised are no longer desirable holiday destinations. We need balance, not mining at all cost. Until we get that, rural communities and city folk will stand united and firm in our opposition to this industry.”
The banner drop - a surprise for many of those attending – was followed by updates from each region and a direct-action workshop, where normally law-abiding citizens had an opportunity to learn the finer details of protest actions, including blockades of drilling rigs, as seen in the Scenic Rim’s Kerry Valley last January.
Lock the Gate’s National Week of Action began last Saturday: national highlights include a 4000-strong march and “Rock the Gate” concert at Murwillumbah, NSW and a 1000+ “Stop CSG!”human sign in Sydney Park. During the week, Queensland actions focused on coal mining, particularly the health implications from uncovered coal trains making their way to the Port of Brisbane. Two people were also arrested after scaling a 30-metre high coal dump less than 1.5km from the town of Jondaryan, where coal dust is contaminating resident’s air and water. New Hope Coal recently applied for an expansion of what was supposed to be a ‘temporary’ coal dump for the nearby Acland open cut coal mine.