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Bentley battle's done and now the clean-up's begun

MOVING ON: Terri Nicholson of The Channon sorts the placards and posters while helping to pack up the Bentley protest site after Metgasco’s licence was suspended.
MOVING ON: Terri Nicholson of The Channon sorts the placards and posters while helping to pack up the Bentley protest site after Metgasco’s licence was suspended. Marc Stapelberg

THE last of thousands of protesters should trickle out of the Bentley Blockade site by this Saturday, with land regeneration and an Aboriginal cleansing ceremony set to follow.

But it's clear protesters will keep a keen eye on the location, despite the NSW Government's decision to suspend Metgasco's license to drill the site (PEL16) for coal seam gas.

"We're wanting to be bumped out completely by Saturday and then do some regeneration of the land on Sunday," Robyn Kelly, an early childhood worker from Tuntable Creek, said.

"And then next week our indigenous elders will do a cleanse of the property.

"What's next is that we push for all petroleum exploration licenses in the Northern Rivers to be cancelled."

Protesters at the site were banding together on Tuesday20/5 to pack up equipment and return to their daily lives - at least until the regeneration work begins on Sunday and the cleansing ceremony next week.

Last Thursday Nan Nicholson, a botanist from The Channon, answered the momentous phone call which determined the protest's destiny.

"About 30 of us were at Gate A for a daylight meeting when my phone rang - I was a bit embarrassed because it made a loud 'jangle jangle' during quite a sombre moment," she said.

"It was Ros Irwin, the former mayor of Lismore, who went with a delegation to Sydney to talk to various ministers and Alan Jones.

"I thought it could be interesting, so I put it on speakerphone and held it up to the group and her voice went out saying the licence had been cancelled. At that point she thought it was [cancelled].

"Everybody just went 'Wow'. It was a moment of silence for a bit. No one could believe it."

Ms Nicholson was scathing of local politicians' reactions to Metgasco's license suspension.

"I think they're all running for cover now. All the local members are trying to look like they cared all along, but they didn't lift a finger," she said.

"They didn't just not lift a finger, but they were obstructive against their own community."

Annie Kia, a healthcare worker from The Channon, said the Bentley Blockade's local and national interest represented "a very rare sociological phenomenon".

"We have 125 communities that have declared themselves gasfield free through a grassroots community democracy process in the Northern Rivers. It's an amazing thing," she said.

"It was the absolute cross section of the Northern Rivers and these things happen very infrequently in history."

Evidently, the State Library of NSW agree, as it's calling out for memorable material from the protests for historical archiving.

Protestors thanked the Northern Rivers community for their ongoing support and donations.

Topics:  bentley, bentley blockade, coal seam gas, csg, metgasco



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