LAST Friday night four Northern Rivers locals set off on a 1300km round trip to the Queensland coal-seam gas fields.
The mission: to investigate the gas industry first-hand to sort myths from reality.
The trip including Lismore councillor and radio presenter Neil Marks, coal seam gas supporter and Coraki dairy farmer Peter Graham, 17-year old "environmentally concerned" student Saxon James and The Northern Star reporter Hamish Broome.
Cr Marks said he approached the trip with an open mind.
"I wanted to see how the rural industries could work with it, around it, and how it featured on the landscape," he said.
I kind of wasn't ready for the size of the major infrastructure such as the Kenya water plant … some of those things were a shock
- Lismore councillor Neil Marks
After returning, he said his biggest concern was how the industry infrastructure could be replicated on the Northern Rivers.
The massive QGC Kenya water treatment facility was uppermost on his mind.
"I kind of wasn't ready for the size of the major infrastructure such as the Kenya water plant … some of those things were a shock," he admitted.
"When you've got that much activity happening, how that fits into our landscape is a concern."
On the other hand, Cr Marks noted many landholders prepared to negotiate with the industry had benefited.
Saxon started the trip as an opponent of the industry coming to this region, but returned more open-minded.
"I can see the good it has done; it has brought a lot of wealth to the Queensland region; but I am still not sure about its safety," he said.
But his main opposition was to hydraulic fracturing, which will only occur in 10% of Queensland's wells, while he was less concerned about the usual process of removing and treating water from the coal seams.
- Saxon James
The biggest surprise for Peter Graham was that land access agreements were a bigger issue than the fear of groundwater contamination.
"I wanted to hear with my own ears what the issues were with the farmers, and hoped there wasn't much of that - If there was I would have to re-look at it," he said.
And he was comfortable with the level of industrialisation - with the exception of the Kenya project.
"Industrialisation is in the eye of the beholder. We can't deny that the Kenya project is massive, but in terms of industrial well pad activity, I thought it was within the realms of reasonable," he said.
"The question is: How many wells will be our peak production here?"