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First shots fired in NSW Lock the Gate campaign

A meeting of 85 farmers at the little town on Gurley in northern NSW earlier this week saw the beginning of the first direct confrontation between coal seam gas companies and farmers in New South Wales.

The company Planet Gas has, in the last few days, sent letters to farmers on the beautiful black soil country south of Moree demanding entry to their properties to explore for coal seam gas  and threatening that landholders would be taken to arbitration if they had not negotiated an agreement within 28 days.

However, in an ominous sign for the company, the meeting at Gurley unanimously decided to lock their gates and refuse to negotiate with Planet Gas.

Lock the Gate Alliance president, Drew Hutton, who addressed yesterday's meeting, said the farmers in this region would win their campaign to keep coal seam gas off their land.

"The people of this district have a strong, united local community, determined leadership, a large fighting fund and the support of the local Moree Plains council," Mr Hutton said.

"They also decided at yesterday's meeting to join with the wider lock the gate movement and consequently, they will be a powerful force for the industry to contend with.

"These farmers know what has happened in Queensland with coal and coal seam gas running rampant across good agricultural land and they are determined this won't happen on their properties.

Mr Hutton said not one drill hole would be allowed on any property and, if this situation persisted until April 2012, the company's exploration licence would have to be withdrawn by the state government. "The non-cooperation campaign in Gurley-Belatta will become the model of resistance for the rest of rural New South Wales," Mr Hutton predicted.

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