CSG protests are likely to “only get bigger”

CLAIMS that protests at coal seam gas drilling sites are to blame for stalling industry development and forcing the price of gas up in NSW have done nothing to deter north coast activists.

Lindsay Partridge, managing director of manufacturing company Brickworks, made headlines on the weekend when he suggested the "anti-coal seam gas" movement was responsible for slowing development at a time when the state was tipped for a severe gas shortage.

He told the ABC that protestors had stopped or delayed "the timely production of gas" and the only solution was for the State and Federal Government's to "accelerate" new gas fields and uncomplicated the approval process.

CSG Free Northern Rivers spokeswoman Boudicca Cerese said protests were likely to "only get bigger" as more and more communities were affected and governments "try to force this industry on an unwilling population".

She rejected the suggestion protests were forcing gas prices up and ensure future gas shortages.

"It is actually the export of coal seam gas that is responsible for forcing domestic prices up, as domestic forward supply contracts are now being pegged at the high Asian prices being paid for export supplies," Ms Cerese said

"The expansion in gas development under way in Australia is already huge but even if more fields are developed, more quickly, which is unlikely because of skills shortage and cost blowouts from the current frenetic rate of expansion, most of it will still be exported, and any gas sold domestically will still be locked into Asian prices."

Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson would not be drawn on claims that protests and blockades at sites like Glenugie were costing the company big money and discouraging the gas industry from investing in Australia.

Instead, he stressed the development of the industry would be a means of "avoiding or minimising" the gas shortage at a time when NSW "will need to look for gas from other states and will be competing with gas that has been contracted for sale on the export market at prices currently well above the prices paid by Australian consumers and business".

He said while the Northern Rivers did not yet have a pipeline, "supply of locally produced natural gas to (local) businesses will reduce costs and their dependence on imported and more polluting fuels".

He also said Metgasco's short-to medium priorities would be to supply gas to businesses in the Northern Rivers including Richmond Dairies.

His comments followed an interview on morning radio today (Tue) where Metgasco spokesman Richard Shields claimed CSG was safe and the company had been prevented from speaking with local communities because they had been "hijacked by anti-csg activists".

Ms Cerese said it was the community and not "some anonymous and nebulous activists" who were at the centre of the Glenugie blockade.

"If Mr Shields does not understand this simple fact - that it is local communities who are standing up against their plans to turn the area into a gas field - then it is he who is 'not prepared to listen'."

"Until the CSG companies and the State Government genuinely start listening to community views and concerns about CSG then the blockades and other actions are likely to continue as each community takes a stand to defend local community, environmental and social values."

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