OPINION: Nats need to buy back Metgasco's Bentley licence

THE NSW National Party leadership team of Troy Grant and Duncan Gay visited the Northern Rivers in the lead up to the recent State Election stating quite clearly their opposition to coal seam gas (CSG) mining in our area and their intention to buy back the existing licences, in particular PEL 445.

The NSW Supreme Court's ruling in favour of Metgasco in relation to the suspension of it's drilling approval at Bentley in May last year is not unexpected.

The NSW Government has the power, through clauses in the Onshore Petroleum Act (1991) to cancel Metgasco's licence in the Northern Rivers if it had the political will to do so. Metgasco has been fined for various breaches of its licence agreement.

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The Northern Rivers community has overwhelmingly stated over the last five years that it doesn't want this invasive industrialisation of our rural landscape. CSG was the number one election issue that resulted in an unprecedented swing against the National Party.

I believe that swing would have been even greater if the Nationals hadn't changed their position on this issue during the final weeks of the campaign and posted out a number of flyers making sure that everyone knew that they were listening to the community.

Now is the time for them to make good on their promises and begin a new chapter. It's time that they stood up to the Sydney Liberal Party and once again represented the interests of their constituents, and not the mining companies that seek to exploit our resources at the expense of our land, water, major industries (tourism and agriculture) and property values.

If legislative change is needed to ensure that the courts won't overturn the cancellations then the NSW National, Labor and Greens MPs need to work together to protect our region once and for all and have the Northern Rivers declared Gasfield Free.

Anything less would show that their change of heart before the election was nothing more than deceit in order to hold on to their jobs. I'm hopeful that the recent court decision provides the impetus to settle this issue once and for all.

* Jeff Johnson was an independent candidate in the state election standing on an anti-CSG platform. He is also a former member of the Greens and a councillor in Ballina Shire.