Crowd enjoying the North Coast National.
Crowd enjoying the North Coast National. JAY CRONAN

Show knocks back Metgasco

THE North Coast National has rejected a potentially lucrative sponsorship deal with Metgasco for this year's show amid allegations its management committee has been intimidated by anti-coal-seam gas protesters.

The Northern Star has been told by a reputable source that protesters threatened to make their "presence felt" at the show should the nine-member committee accept the sponsorship.

Show chairman John Gibson yesterday refused to confirm the threat but told the Northern Star the committee was concerned about a possible social media campaign to disrupt the annual event.

"It's a very difficult situation for the show committee and there were some frank discussions," he said.

"There were discussions (between the committee and protest groups) about what might happen in the lead-up to the show. In those discussions they said they weren't going to boycott the show but there are a lot of things people can do.

"Social media is very important these days and can get out of hand and some of those things were said during the discussions with those at the meeting who I can't name."

Mr Gibson said while the show had not had formal talks with Metgasco about the value of any sponsorship deal, last year the Casino-based gas producer sponsored the show to the tune of $15,000.

It is understood the committee twice met with groups opposed to CSG, but didn't meet face-to-face with any Metgasco representative.

Metgasco wrote a letter to the committee after the decision was made saying it was "disappointed that we were not provided the opportunity to address (the committee) prior to the decision ... to correct the record".

"We do not believe your committee's decision was based on sound information and believe it contrary to positions taken by many other responsible and informed groups."

The letter obtained by The Northern Star was written by Metgasco chief executive Peter Henderson. He said the company was also surprised to be offered a stall at the show after its sponsorship was rejected.

"We find this somewhat confusing and inconsistent," he wrote.

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