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Protesters more determined than ever to keep up the fight

Ian Gaillard, co-ordinator for Lock the Gate Northern Rivers.
Ian Gaillard, co-ordinator for Lock the Gate Northern Rivers.

AS RIOT police descended on another anti-coal seam gas blockade yesterday, Northern Rivers activists went to New South Wales Parliament House to warn that a heavy-handed approach would only cement protestors' determination to keep up the fight.

Among them was Ian Gaillard, co-ordinator for Lock the Gate Northern Rivers, who described scenes at the Glenugie blockade - where "grandmas were rolled over and pushed aside" by riot and public order officers - as "Nazi-like".

Receiving the news that Aboriginal elders were among those arrested at the Doubtful Creek protest yesterday, Mr Gaillard said the sentiment of determination in the Northern Rivers was stronger than ever.

He said he had travelled to Sydney in the hope of bringing home the message to the State Government that people were not prepared to the let the issue just "go away" and be forced to submit to "shoddy regulations".

He also wanted answers from Premier Barry O'Farrell about who ordered public and riot squad officers into protests sites in the first place and whether the same approach would continue to be taken despite the fact that people would continue to blockade all activities of drilling.

Ballina-based researcher Ds Mariann Lloyd-Smith, from the National Toxics Network, travelled with the group to warn those in Sydney's west - the region under the premier's ministerial portfolio - about what was to come if they did not take similar action against CSG in their area.

She said studies carried out in other countries, where CSG had been tapped into for some time, were producing growing evidence of pollution and the link between cancer and respiratory disease in impacted areas.

"The people need to know what if this goes ahead they will have to face these problems," Dr Lloyd-Smith said.

"What's very clear now is that no matter what regulations you put into effect, you cannot control the air emissions from the industry and you cannot control the chemicals once you release them into the groundwater."

Grafton farmer Lyndy Moss said it was time for the government to "stop letting the dollar speak" and look hard at the scientific evidence on the risks CSG posed to land and water.

She was at the Glenugie protest, just 5kms from her property, and was adamant that while workers were evidently frustrated about not being allowed in and some protestors were voicing their opinions about being "shafted" by the government, there was no need for riot police to be called in.

"Honestly, on that day everybody was peaceful and they just used heavy-handed techniques that they didn't need to."I think they were truing to push an agenda - it was really unnecessary and they were really rough - women were bruised

."People have the riot to defend their own properties - what else is a landholder going to do?"Land is like family, you can't just walk away from it."

The trio of activists met with Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazzard and several members of the opposition yesterday.

Mr Gaillard said he hoped the meetings would lead to some form of understanding that protestors would not give in and a solution which did not involve simply combating the protest action with physical force.

"This voice will only grow louder and louder and louder and whilst ministers and bureaucrats and industry will together say 'this will continue', what they don't realise is that the ground swell of opinion will explode," he said.

"How many riot police are there and how long can the government who is paying for them afford to send them out?"Can you send them out 365days a year? Because we will be there that often."

Topics:  blockade, coal seam gas, ian gaillard, lock the gate, northern rivers, nsw parliament




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