Elders distance themselves from Githabul ‘deal’ with Metgasco

MEMBERS of the local Githabul tribe have distanced themself from calls by the chairman of their native title corporation to join forces with the gas industry.

The dispute follows years of infighting within the Githabul Nation Aboriginal Corporation (GNAC) which administers 1120 sq km of native title land along the Queensland border surrounding Woodenbong.

GNAC chairman Trevor Close this week identified Metgasco's planned well at Bentley as suitable for a joint venture with the native title corporation.

Mr Close declared in a statement that the "the potential of this new gas well will deliver millions back to the Githabul people".

Under a so-called "farm-in" agreement, GNAC would become a co-investor in the drilling project and take a percentage stake in any future profits.

Metgasco chief Peter Henderson said farm-in agreements were common in the oil and gas industry, with up to two, three, and even four parties taking stakes in some projects.

Mr Close said the Githabul people were "happy to share gas" with NSW in the "spirit of reconciliation", and to stop the state's interstate gas dependency.

But Githabul elder Gloria Williams said no one in her tribe supported the gas industry, and that Mr Close lived in Sydney and ran a mining consultancy.

She said GNAC had been hijacked by a group "intent on doing mining deals", which didn't have local support.

"We live in the heart of Githabul and have been trying to address this issue with GNAC, and they have been avoiding us for two years," she said.

"All these deals he [Mr Close] is talking about, we have never sat down as a tribe and spoken about."

Metgasco chief Peter Henderson scotched rumours that an agreement had already been reached with GNAC.

"The deal has not been done - this is an aspiration from the Githabul group," he said.

But he said Metgasco was open to an agreement if the terms were appropriate.

At a planned 2100m deep, the Bentley well is expected to cost between $4 - 5 million, much more costly than Metgasco's more typical 6-700m deep wells which cost under $1 million.

"We have worked with indigenous groups for quite some time now, and we appreciate their support and that of the broader community, and will be doing our best to work to add value to these communities in the Northern Rivers," he said.

Mr Henderson said he had attended a workshop with elders two weeks ago covering all aspects of the industry and dealt with concerns about groundwater. He said the group stressed the importance of employment opportunities for young people.

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