Part of the 600-strong crowd at the packed anti-CSG rally in the Byron sports complex last Saturday.
Part of the 600-strong crowd at the packed anti-CSG rally in the Byron sports complex last Saturday. Digby Hildreth

Mayor rallies to hassle, harangue and intimidate

IF anyone in Byron Shire is in favour of coal-seam gas exploration and mining in the area, they were not present at the gathering rally last Saturday at the sports complex in Ewingsdale Rd.

A combination of political rally, festival and community celebration, the event drew more than 600 people, all of whom it seemed were fiercely opposed to the entry of CSG mining companies into Byron Shire - and indeed the entire Northern Rivers region.

And if they weren't passionate objectors to begin with, they were after the trio of rousing speeches that followed Nigel Stewart's appeal to unity and patriotism, to protect the whole of Australia.

His sentiments were echoed in a powerful Dennis Kevans' poem called Ah, white man, have you any sacred sites? recited by MC Tony Barry.

Mayor Simon Richardson, recalling his activist roots, emphasised the need to continue to hassle, harangue and intimidate the mining companies.

Winning the battle was inevitable, he said, but it was important to understand that resilience and perseverance were still needed.

"We don't know where the spark [of change] will come from.

"The cracks are appearing and we will drag these dinosaur companies and this economy into the new millennium, and leave an environment for our children that we can be proud of."

Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton said greed was behind the push to find CSG - "greedy miners and their greedy political backers".

"There's been a resources boom and they don't want any restrictions placed on them. The CSG industry wants to go wherever it chooses."

However, he added, "the end game has begun".

"Where you stand on this issue is determined by the question: do you love this country? If you do, you'll fight it."

Finally, Annie Kia of the Channon, spoke of a recent visit she made to the Darling Downs, and her shock at "the scale of the mining, the wanton destruction of the landscape, the recklessness".

Further surveys would have a wider compass, she said, beyond streets and villages, to ask: do you want your region to be CSG-free".

And Paul Spooner noted that drilling was stopping at Doubtful Creek, scene of recent blockades.

As a consequence, the Convoy of Concern he was organising for March 1 had been postponed, he said - until there were other attempts to set up equipment in the area.

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