Anti-CSG activists block access to Bentley farmer's property

A protester stands in protest against CSG mining in Bentley.
A protester stands in protest against CSG mining in Bentley. Patrick Gorbunovs

THE BENTLEY dairy farmers on whose land Metgasco will drill next month say gasfields activists have adopted extreme tactics in constructing a "war barrier" blocking access to their property.

Father and son dairy farmers Robert and Peter Graham, the latter a former Lismore councillor, run a herd of limousin cattle on the property.

Relations between the Grahams and protesters have strained in recent weeks as tensions rise over the imminent drilling.

At the weekend an unknown group built a blockade across the Grahams' driveway from star pickets with steel spikes welded to the end, splayed in several directions.

The spikes had been covered in PVC piping yesterday, but Peter Graham said they were dangerous, describing the structure as a "wartime barrier".

"Any one of those (protesters) could fall and spike themselves," he said.

"What worries me is what's next. I don't want it to be a war."

Bentley farmer Peter Graham. photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star
Bentley farmer Peter Graham. photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star Patrick Gorbunovs

The newly formed Front Line Against Gas group, which spokeswoman Ruth Rosenhek said was made up of protesters "on the ground" at Bentley, refused to take responsibility for the installation.

But Ms Rosenhek said it was "obviously a delay tactic" to hamper grading work needed on the steep driveway into the site before the drill truck could gain access.

"This is obviously the entrance to the drill site and protesters are trying to slow things down," she said.

A permanent vigil tent manned by protesters is set up on the narrow strip of public land between Bentley Rd and the property.

Ms Rosenhek said "safety was paramount".

"To me the road is much more unsafe than anything happening here on the driveway," she said.

The entrance to the planned drill is not used by the Grahams on a regular basis, but Mr Graham said they had also encountered issues entering the main gate, which they use several times a week.

"We've removed five padlocks on two gates, we've broken welds on two gates, we've removed rubbish and barricades from two gates," he said.

Local farmer Robert Graham on his Bentley property where drilling will be conducted. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star
Local farmer Robert Graham on his Bentley property where drilling will be conducted. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star Patrick Gorbunovs

CSG health impacts uncertain, say researchers

RESEARCHERS in the Medical Journal of Australia argue the uncertainties over health impacts from unconventional gas should be a factor in checking the industry's growth.

The medical report "Harms unknown: health uncertainties cast doubt on the role of unconventional gas in Australia's energy future" argued that wastewater could pose a greater health harm than fracking fluids.

It also argued the potential health burdens of unconventional gas were likely to fall disproportionately on rural communities, the young and the elderly.

Meanwhile, in the state's north west...

TENSIONS are rising at a coal seam gas exploration site in the NSW north-west where an elderly farmer who strapped himself to a drill rig, is refusing to budge.

Dry land farmer and grazier Ted Borowski, who owns a property north of Coonamble, believes the future of the region's farming industry is under threat if the proposed Narrabri Gas Project goes ahead.

The 58-year-old successfully brought a convoy of four trucks carrying a coal seam gas drill rig through the Pilliga Forest to a halt yesterday morning.

His protest action comes after Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner confirmed he would support the fast-tracking of the Santos-backed project.

"If gasfields invade the NSW north-west, it will destroy our water, damage our land and ultimately destroy our ability for a future in farming and food production for the next generation," Mr Borowski said

Negotiations with Mr Borowski, who had attached himself to the rig with metal piping, were continuing late yesterday.

Topics:  coal seam gas csg farming metgasco

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