Lock the Gate March Newsletter (NB the news from TARA has been good as per last NRG Alert – but this still makes an interesting read)
The past two weeks have been quite eventful for the Lock The Gate Alliance. Our rally on Sunday 20-March-2011 was a huge success. The NSW state election has brought in a new government with word that change may be afoot. But the community battles are starting to heat up. See below for more details on a couple of recent events. On Sunday 20-March-2011, over 1200 people assembled in the rain and wind to raise our cry for action
Our Alliance is growing everyday. People from across Australia have signed up as supporters. And everyday brings another group member registration application. Groups include community action groups facing local challenges with coal and coal seam gas mining, environmentalist groups, community chambers of commerce and, increasingly, other concerned community groups from a wide variety of backgrounds.
Please look at your calendars and contact lists to help continue our campaign to raise public awareness. We have signs, brochureware and other materials available to help spread the word. The Lock The Gate website’s documents page contains a wealth of information as do many of the participating group web pages. If you need a speaker for an event, please contact us at your earliest convenience (firstname.lastname@example.org).
3. If you are part of a community action group, community chamber of commerce or any other concerned community group, please make sure your group signs up as a Lock The Gate member.
4. Tell your friends, family and neighbours to signal their support by signing up as a Lock The Gate supporter.
5. As always, your financial support is most welcome.
6. Your ideas and feedback are requested. Please send us your thoughts on next steps via our website contact form or via the email@example.com email address
Our friends in Tara, Queensland, find themselves on the front-lines of activities in the campaign to halt the experiment that is coal seam gas mining – a halt needed to provide the time necessary to undertake a full and independent inquiry into all aspects of the industry. They need all our support.
Go to the Lock The Gate Tara Blockade page for the latest news and videos.
The residents and supporters are now into the 18th day of the blockade of QGC’s attempts to push its pipeline and gas field into and throughout the Tara residential estates. The blockade has been a trial-by-fire for many of the residents and for those who have travelled from far-and-wide to join in the protest.
The blockade in Tara is a stark reminder of what we are all facing in dealing with the rampant, unfettered and government-sanctioned expansion of the coal and coal seam gas mining industries. Despite strong public protest, despite the mounting and irrefutable evidence against this unchecked growth and despite our reasonable expectations that our governments will stand in as our representatives to ensure balanced and properly planned and regulated development, we are witnessing the harsh realities that belie our expectations. In Tara, QGC not only has licence to proceed with its developments, not only is this done WITHOUT THE CONSENT of the local residents, it is being actively supported by the Queensland government through use of over-powering police force.
Organizers are committed to staying in the fight for the long haul. They won’t let QGC or the Queensland government off the hook. Since the blockade began in earnest on 14th March, there have been two arrests.
* The first was great-grandmother June Norman. June is from Brisbane. She has made the trek to Tara to stand-up for what is right. She has done so to protect the future for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As she said prior to her trial yesterday on charges of disobeying a police order “I don’t want to leave a legacy of poisoned water and land which will result in poisoned food.” I was present at the blockade in Tara when June was arrested. The police presence was overwhelming to say the least. The protesters assembled were outnumbered by police, including police on horseback, plain clothes, uniformed police and tactical force police. The blockade was conducted peacefully and with the full knowledge of the police and the security personnel on the QGC property. At no time did anyone do or say anything that could be construed in a negative manner. However, when June stood her ground blocking entrance to a large truck transporting a very large bulldozer, a team of police stormed in and she was quickly arrested.
* Drew Hutton, a founding member of the Lock The Gate Alliance and a strong leader for the campaign in Queensland, was arrested on Tuesday this week. The blockade was now being conducted in private land with the full permission of the landholder. Drew and the other protesters were endeavouring to lock the gate on QGC, trying to prevent them from continuing their construction and land clearing across the property. Once again, the police stormed in, this time onto privately held land, without the permission of the landholder, and ordered everyone to move off. Drew was arrested under section 805 Petroleum and Gas Act and may be fined up to $50,000.
Yesterday, Drew and June were in court. June received a $200 fine for her offence and, fortunately, has no conviction posted against her name. Drew was released from detention on bail and, fortunately, is free to move about without conditions.
April 3rd media release on the Tara blockade:
Blockaders claim victory at Tara: QGC in breach of environmental authority
The blockaders at the Tara residential estate claimed victory today in their campaign to stop QGC (British Gas) from building a pipeline on to their estate.
The police have packed up and left, telling the protest group this was a “civil matter now”. QGC have stopped all work on the pipeline.
The turning point came when lawyers acting for local landowner Bryce Keating, on whose land the blockade is occurring, sent a letter to QGC complaining that the company had breached its agreement with him by clearing vegetation for a road wider than the 20 metres stated in their contract. …
The Tara blockade will continue and when Mr Hutton appears in court on 13 April on a charge of obstructing QGC, he will be arguing that he was there at the invitation of the landowner with a ‘reasonable excuse’ for obstructing the company.
“A legal victory here would right the imbalance between the powers of big mining companies like British Gas and landowners, even the poorest ones like some on the Tara estate,” Mr Hutton said.
The community of Gloucester was shocked at the beginning of March, a day after the NSW parliament was porogued for the election, to learn that AGL had been given licence to proceed with its production gas field project in the valley. The decision was rife with areas for serious concern, including the allowance for AGL to use “adaptive management” strategies in its project due to the uncertainties of what would happen in their drilling and production operations.
Members of the Barrington Gloucester Stroud Alliance had previously organized a community meeting in order that people could pose questions of concern to representatives of AGL. The meeting attracted a large crowd and involved four AGL employees at the front accompanied by two others in the crowd. It was quickly apparent that AGL did not take the meeting seriously. First, the attendees were asked to identify themselves if they were journalists as media was not welcome. The attendees were instructed not to record the proceedings. Second, it was announced that while working for AGL and having been asked to attend as representatives of AGL, the attendees were informed that the individuals present would not be speaking on behalf of AGL.
It was apparent that AGL had not received the consent of the community for its production plans. Many questions were asked but most did not receive answers that addressed the community concerns.
Gloucester may find itself the next community on the front-lines having to consider what form of protest is appropriate to let the public and our governments know that their gas field is not welcome there.
I bring these actions to your attention as a reminder of what is likely to spread across this country. Given that licences for massive expansions of coal mining and the rapid, cancerous growth of coal seam gas mining continue to be granted in Queensland, NSW and in virtually every other state and territory despite strong public protest, despite the evidence against this unchecked development and despite NOT HAVING THE CONSENT of the community, it is inevitable that one-by-one communities will be faced with the need to take direct action in response. Our protests will be peaceful. We are law-abiding citizens. However, our protests have become inevitability since those elected to represent us have chosen again and again to represent the interests of the mining industries over the rights of the land, the people and the environment.
Remind everyone, your politicians included, that the GATE IS LOCKED on ongoing, unfettered and uncontrolled coal and coal seam gas mining development.
John C. Thomson Lock The Gate Alliance
Mobile: 0428 439 586