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How the CSG war was won

WHEN Metgasco's shareholders heard about the company's immense gas discovery in December 2009, they probably envisioned a seemingly ironclad windfall.

Yet just over three years later, after the birth of an unprecedented anti-gas movement, the company has suspended its exploration amid tightening regulations.

Those involved say unlike many protest groups of the past, the movement was a "broad church" which included farmers, artists and musicians, veteran activists, Aboriginal groups and urban dwellers.

The public opposition to CSG that peaked at the Glenugie and Doubtful Creek rallies was built upon such cross-sectional groups that solidified between 2010 and 2012.

Keerrong local Judi Emmett said it all began with the arrival of an Arrow Energy drill rig there in April 2010.

After doing some research and being put off by the "unheard-of noise", she co-founded the Keerrong Gas Squad.

She later recalled telling an Arrow representative: "You don't know what you've done - you picked the wrong place".

Ms Emmett said the impact of the 2010 film Gasland could never be overstated. It first screened locally at the Star Court Theatre in November, 2010, followed by local halls. The film remains the most influential narrative about CSG, despite being heavily criticised.

"Gasland was the pivotal point when more people came on board - it was amazing," Ms Emmett said.

When Arrow's program went into hiatus in 2011, the focus shifted to Metgasco and the Kyogle Group Against Gas formed to lobby against its proposed pipeline to Queensland.

Lock the Gate spokeswoman Boudicca Cerese said a national day of action against CSG in October 2011 - when 500 people turned out in the streets of Kyogle - was a landmark for the rural shire.

"It definitely had the hallmarks of an unprecedented social movement then, because you had people from all walks of life coming together to get active on the issue," Ms Cerese said.

But it was the first half of 2012 when the movement snowballed itself into the Lismore mainstream.

In March, 700 people arrived for an action meeting at the Lismore Workers Club. Then in April The Channon was the first community to be declared "gasfield free", which began a wave of town declarations still in motion today.

"The Channon was probably the most moving thing I've ever seen," Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said.

What topped it all was the 7000-strong Lismore rally in May, which Knitting Nanna Against Gas Anne Thompson saw as "critical mass".

"It was overwhelming to see how many people there were prepared to march through the streets - nowhere else in the world had there been such a huge number of people protesting about this industry," Ms Thompson said.

Activism expert and lecturer Aidan Ricketts said the result was a strengthened idea of the Northern Rivers as a "whole community".

"Now that we've said what we don't want, perhaps now we can turn around and say what we do want," Mr Ricketts said.

On Thursday, Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham read a motion to the NSW Parliament congratulating the many Northern Rivers community groups on their successful campaign.

Topics:  csg metgasco



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