About 2000 people turned out at Byron Bay to protest against coal seam gas mining, while 1000 letters were posted to Premier Barry O’Farrell.
About 2000 people turned out at Byron Bay to protest against coal seam gas mining, while 1000 letters were posted to Premier Barry O’Farrell. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

People power unites against CSG

THE people have spoken and the message is clear: The coal seam gas industry is not welcome in the Northern Rivers.

The weekend saw at least 10 anti-coal seam gas rallies held across the region as part of a national day of action.

Rallies were also held in Queensland and Western Australia in what is believed to be the largest ever series of demonstrations against the controversial extraction technique.

The biggest local turnout was yesterday in Byron Bay where more than 2000 people took to the streets carrying placards and banners, chanting "no coal seam gas" and "don't pollute our water" as they marched to Main Beach.

At a stage on the foreshore, speakers, including comedian Arj Barker and Jo Immig from the National Toxics Network, encouraged the crowd to write to Barry O'Farrell to tell him the industry was not welcome in the region.

Blues musician Ash Grunwald played songs and also spoke against the industry.

On Saturday, many as 1500 people took to the streets of Lismore marching through the town centre to Spinks Park. Their message was the same.

At Spinks Park Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell told the crowd her personal view was the Northern Rivers had potential as food bowl - a region with high rainfall and rich soils - and that must not be jeopardised by mining.

"I think we've got to do as much as we can to protect that, but also my other concern is the social divisions that can come if one farmer or a landowner accepts coal seam gas and then what does that do to that community when it's split and divided on views.

"This is a march that has united people across the political spectrum and across the social spectrum, so it really is an issue that is affecting the most conservative amongst us and the most progressive.

"I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like it before."

Ian Gaillard of the Keerrong Gas squad said the rally sent a strong message to coal seam gas companies.

"I think the CSG companies should look at this and know that we will be out there and that non-violent civil disobedience will begin to take place in the near future," Mr Gaillard said.

He called for a total ban on the industry.

About 500 people turned out to a rally in Murwillumbah, with about 170 protesting at Uki markets and about 160 in Nimbin.

Protests attracted hundreds more at Tweed Heads, Burringbar, Mt Burrell, Byrrill Creek and Tyalgum.

Visiting the region yesterday, state opposition leader John Robertson said coal seam gas was a contentious issue which had split the coalition state government.

"Coal seam gas is an issue at the moment on which the government is not coming out and making their views clear," Mr Robertson said.

"You've got Chris Hartcher, the minister for energy, saying they support coal seam gas (and) you've got the National Party saying they want to be able to lock the gates."



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