Northern Rivers communities will declare their region Gasfield Free in a unique and moving ceremony in Lismore’s Riverside Park, followed by a street march and concert on Saturday.
In taking this action, communities are putting the NSW government on notice that the region is Gasfield Free, and they intend to keep it that way. The message is loud and clear: cancel the licences.
The ceremony and march in Lismore is expected to attract many thousands of supporters, and will see the official launch of four large signs that will be erected at each of the main arterial road gateways to the region, welcoming all travellers to "Gasfield Free Northern Rivers – protected by community," - and sending a powerful message to governments and gas miners.
Earlier this year a proposed unconventional gas drilling operation was suspended at Bentley on the eve of a police operation that would have seen 800 police square off against more than 5000 people at the Bentley blockade.
"This is our chance to send a strong message to governments and candidates before the March election,” said Jenny Dowell, Mayor of Lismore City Council.
"Our communities do not want unconventional mining here - not now, not ever. So mining companies may as well pack up and leave. We call on the state government to cancel the gas licences,” she said.
"The ALP has recently announced a policy to cancel all gas licences in the Northern Rivers, bringing them in line with the Greens,” said Bentley landholder, Meg Nielsen.
"But the National Party has been deaf to the roar coming from the Northern Rivers. We call on the current state government to honour the region’s wishes and to commit immediately to cancelling the licenses."
Saturday’s bold declaration is the culmination of a grass-roots democracy process that involves door-to-door surveys.
"There are now 142 self-declared Gasfield Free communities in this region,” said Aidan Ricketts, spokesperson for Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, an alliance of community groups.
"The survey question is: 'Do you want your neighbourhood Gasfield Free?' To this simple question an overwhelming 95.3% said, YES. With over 31,000 respondents, these community surveys show the strength of our resistance.”
"Not only have numerous other polls confirmed the overwhelming opposition to industrial gasfields, many of the councils of the region are also prominent in resisting this industry,” he said.
"We have mass-movement dynamics here. The region won’t cop it. Our motto is 'Gasfield Free Northern Rivers – Nonviolent but Non-negotiable.' We've shown we can mount massive, effective nonviolent actions. Do they really want to attempt mining by martial law?"
What: Region draws a line in the sand over gasfields
When: 10am. Saturday, 1st November
Where: Riverside Park, Victoria St Lismore
Contact: Amy Gordon 0410 631 404