Village aims to be free of gas
WHEN 400 people turn up on a showery Saturday to a muddy oval at The Channon to get a message out to the region, the state, the nation and the world, you can sense the passion.
They came with their parents and kids, umbrellas and gumboots, emotions and opinions.
The message: Our community rejects coal-seam gas mining.
The village appears to have created a world first: It has declared itself gasfield-free in the same way many areas have declared themselves nuclear-free.
In what Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell and CSG-free communities co-ordinator Annie Kia admitted could be no more than a symbolic gesture, residents of The Channon and surrounding areas and supporters from across the Northern Rivers gathered.
It was not just a statement to the mining companies, the media and themselves, but to the broader population through the internet, with the event being filmed for uploading to YouTube.com.
The aim is to inspire other communities to be more outspoken in their opposition to CSG.
Once a groundswell of public dissent in the hills and valleys may have led to the brandishing of spears and stones, the weapons in the battle for public opinion are now smart phones, digital cameras and video.
Each group of residents presented the mayor with a scroll declaring their road CSG-free.
"Our best defence is to stand together," it said.
The event follows an overwhelming vote at a public meeting and a comprehensive household survey (429 out of 432) that supported erecting signs indicating each road as gasfield-free.
With the video cameras rolling on Saturday, Ms Kia urged people in Sydney to take a stand.
She said people in cities across Australia needed to become aware of the importance of the issue.
"If you drink water and you eat food, this is your fight too," she told the crowd and her cyberspace audience.
"Today shows that we are united in our objection to invasive mining activity.
"The social contract they (mining companies) speak about exists only in their imaginations."
Cr Dowell said it was a step on from the Lock The Gate campaign.
"For 99% of people in an area to say they are opposed to CSG mining is astounding," she said.
"When you see the diversity of people here today it is nonsense for some to suggest it is just professional activists involved. These are ordinary people; landowners."
Cr Dowell said The Channon was the most environmentally aware part of the Lismore local government area so she didn't expect the same level of support in a poll at the council elections in September.
She was confident, however, that most people would be opposed to CSG mining.
"I've spoken to only a couple of people who are in favour of (CSG)," she said.
There were residents from Tuntable Creek Rd, Keerrong Rd, Ross Rd, Cox Rd, Currie Rd, Young Rd, Rose Rd and Izzard Rd.
And so it went on; 22 neighbourhoods in all.
The event also attracted anti-CSG activists from many other Northern Rivers communities, including Dunoon, Whian Whian, Byrrill Creek, Rock Valley, Nimbin, Casino, Kyogle, Drake, Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads.