Victory for people power: CSG offer celebrated
BOTH Nationals MP Thomas George and the grassroots Gasfield Free movement are calling the $25 million gas licence buyback deal a community win.
Yesterday Mr George announced Metgasco board members accepted a $25 million settlement offered by State Government for petroleum exploration licences PEL 13, 16, and 445, which would settle protracted legal disputes with Metgasco.
The buy back, pending a shareholder decision before the end of the year, would effectively make the Northern Rivers gasfield free.
Gas opponents have called the offer a (qualified) win for people power.
"If shareholders agree, we can celebrate this as one of the greatest victories of people power," Ian Gaillard of Northern Rivers Gasfield Free said.
"It's a great day. It's $22 million more than the company deserved. But we're happy. It's a small price in the scheme of things to pay for a sustainable future for future generations," he said.
Speaking at a spontaneous riverside celebration in Lismore yesterday, Gasfield Free spokesperson Dean Draper said: "When people power started rolling it was an unstoppable force and the government were forced to listen."
Mr George said: "This is a great win for the community but certainly a recognition of the National Party locally in continuing to encourage the government to make the Northern Rivers gasfield free.
"I'm just pleased that both parties have come to an agreement. We've been criticised of spending tax payers' money. But we have lost a court case to Metgasco and they had every right to continue their negotiation with the government to come to an arrangement," he said.
Metgasco Chairman Mr Len Gill said it was a hard decision for the board but recommended its shareholders also accept the offer in December.
"The board has to consider the risks associated with ongoing project approval delays, higher costs and difficulties funding activities over the next few years."
If shareholders accept, one of the largest and most successful social movements in the region's history may have run its course - locally at least.
But Gasfield Free coordinator Elly Bird said: "Of course it's not over for our communities yet. There's nothing to stop the government granting new licences to explore for gas in our region, and until there is protection in law for a gasfield free Northern Rivers, we will continue to work together to achieve that."
However Mr George said a change of legislation to make the Northern Rivers gasfield free was never on the cards for the National Party.
"If we changed legislation just to cancel PELs and cancel licences, who would want to come and do business in this state when a government could just turn around and introduce legislation and cancel all licences?"
Mr George said he could not speculate on whether the controversial mining company, which employed his son Stuart George, would take its $25 million and leave town.