FARMERS UNITE: Bruce Shearman, Peter Nielsen, Len Boyle and Robert Lowrey will be at the November 1 rally in Lismore’s Riverside Park to call for gas licences across the region to be cancelled.
FARMERS UNITE: Bruce Shearman, Peter Nielsen, Len Boyle and Robert Lowrey will be at the November 1 rally in Lismore’s Riverside Park to call for gas licences across the region to be cancelled. Hamish Broome

Nationals stalwart who quit over CSG now pushing for protest

IN CASE local Nationals MPs didn't already know or understand, there's a serious posse of Northern Rivers farmers who oppose gasfields on their land.

Yesterday, about 40 traditional conservative-voting farmers showed up at a picturesque Bentley dairy farm to make the message clear: forget gas - the fertile, abundant valleys of the region are too valuable to risk.

The farmers are hoping to encourage others to show their face at a planned rally in Lismore Saturday week, November 1, to call for the State Government to cancel all gas exploration licences across the region.

Goolmangar dairy farmer Bruce Shearman, former president of the Lismore branch of the National Party, was one of the first local farmers to visit the Queensland gasfields around Chinchilla.

After seeing the level of gas infrastructure there, he decided that the industry would not work in the high-density, small landholdings of the north coast.

"There, there's two homes to 10,000 acres," he said.

That compares with some 35 homes and properties within 2km of the planned Rosella well at Bentley.

Mr Shearman later resigned from the presidency of the Lismore branch because he wasn't happy with the National Party's support for the gas industry.

Fellow farmer Len Boyle said the risk of ruining the landscape was simply not worth it.

"One of the huge problems is the salt; they can't get rid of it," he said.

Bentley farmers Peter and Meg Nielsen spoke about the importance of NSW chief scientist Mary O'Kane's report on the risks of CSG activities.

One of the biggest risks was the industry compromising the flow of spring-fed dams and creeks which are the lifeblood of the farms in the valley.

"In 50 to 100 years time when there's a lot more people around, these fertile flats here will be essential to food production," Mr Nielsen said.

Bentley's Back Creek, which runs into the Wilsons River, was fed from a spring, he said.

Mr Nielsen described the gas industry as "smash and grab" economics.

"Look a bit further than the immediate gas industry and look into the future," he said. "Being conservative I don't like to protest ... but we'd still have apartheid and male-only voting if people didn't protest stupidity.

"The law must reflect the majority."



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