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Protesters disperse as they learn today is not the day

UPDATE 10.42am: PROTESTERS at the Metgasco's Bentley site have begun to disperse after being told Metgasco was unlikely to bring in drilling equipment today.

As dawn broke over the site this morning as many as 2000 anti-CSG protesters had gathered at the site, waiting to see what the day would bring.

The news today would not be the day Metgasco moved on the site has sent most of those people back to their day jobs, with a core of protesters remaining camped at the site.

This is now part of the daily routine at Bentley, with protesters gathering in force at dawn in case Metgasco tries to bring in equipment, before departing the site when it becomes clear this is not the day.

The core itself is substantial. The protesters' camp is now made up of more than 100 tents and tarps scattered around the camp site, along with a burgeoning population of signs and placards bearing anti-gas slogans.

UPDATE 9.42am: HUNDREDS of protesters have gathered at Metgasco's Rosella test drilling site at Bentley in anticipation of equipment being moved in by the company.

Lismore police sergeant Andrew Synott said police were at the scene to ensure the safety of protesters and the public.

"There are some traffic issues out there," he said.

"The council are going out there to put signage up and implement traffic control measures."

Sgt Synott said protesters had been maintaining their presence since early this morning.

"At the moment they are just standing out there in the mud."

"There is nothing happening and they (the protesters) have been advised of that."

Alexandria Brown and Ayls Brown-Trout pictured at the bentley protest area. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star
Alexandria Brown and Ayls Brown-Trout pictured at the bentley protest area. Photo Patrick Gorbunovs / The Northern Star Patrick Gorbunovs

6.40am: THERE was a sense of calm before the storm at Bentley, with several hundred protesters (or "protectors" as they would preferred to be called) camped out awaiting the arrival Metgasco's drilling equipment.

The camp is on high alert with local sources suggesting they know what has been ordered to feed the extensive police presence that is expected to accompany the arrival of the equipment.

Rumours of 200 police descending on the site on Monday morning have been circulating since Friday, although police would not confirm or deny such an operation had been planned.

There was a festive atmosphere among the campers who had braved the rain on Sunday.

"It's quite surreal, but I love everything about this camp apart from the potential for conflict," said CSG Free Northern Rivers spokesman Aidan Ricketts.

"There is such a great sense of community... People are setting up their camps, playing guitar, eating their leftover spaghetti bolognaise for breakfast and talking about the fact that the riot squad are coming."

He said they have been working closely with police to ensure public safety and was pleased a traffic plan to reduce the speed limit on the main road had been implemented.

DRAWN TO PROTEST: Daniel Hand of Mullumbimby is wiling to be chained in the pipe.
DRAWN TO PROTEST: Daniel Hand of Mullumbimby is wiling to be chained in the pipe. Patrick Gorbunovs

Up at the front gate, Daniel Hand from Mullumbimby was sitting in the concrete pipe that has been dug into the ground to stop the entry of vehicles and machinery. He had a padlock and chain on his wrist that can be locked on to a device deep in the ground.

Daniel said there is an informal roster of people prepared to sit in the pipe and lock on - which is an arrestable offence - designed to slow the progress of the equipment.

Daniel said shifts were generally six hours and the pipe has been made as comfortable as possible. He seemed quite happy to be there with his sketch book.

"It's padded with pillows and I'm surrounded by friends and other people are bringing me food," he said.

Alexandria Brown and her 15 year-old daughter Ayls were two of the people who had come out for the day from Lismore.

She said had decided to come out because it "conveys a message that people don't want it (the gas industry) and the more people that come, the stronger the message.

"It's such an imminent threat and it's going to affect everyone," she said.

Topics:  bentley, coal seam gas, csg, lock the gate, metgasco, protests




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