News

Locals oppose exploration permits

Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton.
Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton.

LOCAL Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) in the Clarence Valley have stated their opposition to the NSW Aboriginal Land Council's application to explore for petroleum and gas in the area.

Grafton Ngerrie LALC chairman Brett Tibbett told a coal seam gas (CSG) meeting, held at South Grafton Ex-Services on Friday night, that Ngerrie was opposed to CSG despite the application by the state body.

He told The Examiner that a large portion of last week's three-day meeting on amendments to the Land Rights Act in Lismore was taken up with objections over the NSW ALC's application for petroleum exploration licences (PEL).

Bundjalung elder Reg King told the Northern Star last week that a group of Aboriginal people told visiting NSW ALC chief executive Geoff Scott that petroleum exploration was not wanted for the Northern Rivers.

"This was once upon a time the land of milk and honey and if we let it go this way, it will be the land of gas and toxins," he said.

The Examiner was unable to contact a spokesperson for the Yaegl LALC, which covers parts of the Lower Clarence, yesterday.

Shame on them: Donnelly

Former North Coast representative on the NSW ALC Dallas Donnelly distanced himself from the PEL applications, which cover about 46,000 square kilometres of the Clarence Valley.

"I find it repulsive that NSWALC has sought these exploration licences without having the decency to consult with local Aboriginal land councils and other indigenous stakeholders," he said. "Shame on them."

Mr Scott could not be contacted by The Examiner yesterday but he told The Star last week there was much to be done before petroleum resources could be mined in the area.

"It's another half a dozen steps away before we even get to the assessment stage or if we even get it granted," he said.

"So it's not an easy area to deal with. There are potential native title claimants, land councils and other interest groups and environment groups.

"If the local mob says no, that we can't, then we have to take notice and listen to the people about their culture, heritage and environmental issues."

We'd rather have leverage

Mr Scott said that the council, as an Aboriginal organisation with interests in benefits for Aboriginal communities, is better placed to be taking on the exploration task than other companies.

"We'd rather have leverage on the issue than to sit back and not have any influence at all."

He told ABC Rural last month that a joint venture partnership agreement has not be signed but he confirmed negotiations with resource companies were underway.

"We have a number of partners we're looking at partnering up with," he said. "On these issues we have to partner with people who have skills and expertise in the area."

"There is always difficulty in getting a united voice and we have to try to do the best we can about a consultation process so we can get to meet with everyone."

No wheeling and dealing

"I'm hoping that Mr Scott will stick by his word," said Mr King. "And that he will get back to the 13 clans and there'll be no wheeling and dealing. I'm fearful about our culture and our heritage."

Listen to Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton's speech to Friday's CSG information night at South Grafton by pressing play on the audios below.

Topics:  coal seam gas nsw aboriginal land council



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