An army of up to 7000 anti-gas protesters is preparing for a clash with police on New South Wales’ north coast.
by Geoff Chambers / The Daily Telegraph
The mood of the Bentley Blockade protest camp, situated on private property next to a farm set for exploratory drilling for conventional gas, turned defensive yesterday, as Lock The Gate officials looked at alternative options after Richmond Valley Council evicted them from their campsite.
Simmo, a barefoot protester with a walkie talkie positioned on one of several illegal lookouts erected on public property outside the camp, asked The Daily Telegraph to erase photos of him without a mask.
Asked why he was hiding behind a mask, Simmo said it was part of a long game and he would take it off when police arrived to remove the protesters.
More than 300 campers remained on the Bentley Rd property yesterday, which from today will be considered illegal by council after campers were accused of breaching council regulations by using detergent and bathing in the creek, lighting fires, using gas for cooking, holding pop-up concerts and setting up mini-camps on other properties.
The camp was set up last month by Lock The Gate and Gasfield Free Northern Rivers on land owned by farmer David Scarrabelotti with his permission.
The neighbouring property is the farm owned by father and son Robert and Peter Graham, who gave Metgasco permission to begin exploratory drilling for conventional gas.
The anti-CSG groups and Mr Scarrabelotti lodged a development application with the council to replace a temporary two-month approval for a 200-person “primitive camp” with a new application for 600 people.
The application was opposed by police and RMS and rejected by council general manager John Walker on Wednesday, setting up a showdown between protesters, council and police.
Lock The Gate organiser Ian Gaillard, who set up the camp, expected “7000 people here when the police show up” if council failed to re-negotiate the development application.
The protest groups were expected to lodge a revised DA late yesterday.
Richmond Valley Council mayor Ernie Bennett said council had a neutral view on CSG and its main concern was the safety of protesters and public on the 100km/h Bentley Rd.