Bentley farmers: Opposing gas doesn't make us "anarchists"
THE idea that all gas opponents are hardened leftish eco-activists has been contradicted by a group of 32 Bentley farmers, who have thrown their support behind a letter opposing any gas exploration in their area.
But you won't see them manning blockades in full view of television cameras - that's not their style.
Beef cattle farmer Tony Davis and retired dairy farmer Robert Lowrey, who co-wrote the letter, said the idea of a local gas industry originally seemed like a good idea.
Mr Davis originally had a test well on his family's 180ha property and had no problems with Metgasco's management of the well or the rehabilitation of the land.
He only became concerned after realising the potential scale of industry involved.
"When they started talking about pipelines and gasfields, that was the trigger point when I decided I better do some more reading about it," he recalled.
"For this gas thing to be viable, there's got to be roads and wells and a lot of infrastructure."
They were not impressed by the idea of hydraulic fracturing - the stimulation method used to get gas to flow, and the copious amounts of water drawn out of the well and stored in dams.
"If it's commercially viable, then what? We really have no idea where it will end," Mr Lowrey said.
Since writing the letter they have shown it to 39 farmers (of about 45 in the Bentley valley) - and 36 support it. That's a number Mr Davis said he expected to grow as they handed out the statement to more people.
Here's a link to the letter here:
All farmers who support the letter own at least 60ha of land, and many are descendants of original settlers, living on land only ever owned by the one family.
What motivated the two of them to help formulate the letter was the stereotypical image of protesters being bandied around in Sydney and the national media.
"Our household became very annoyed when we were told we were anarchists trying to destroy the state's economy - my family has been contributing to the NSW rural economy for 150 years," Mr Lowrey said.
"We're still doing what we came here to do, and doing it successfully.
"I think what most of us are really concerned about is that we might end up with great divisions in our community."