Gloucester Council and CSG – Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Below is the letter I have sent to Premier Mike Baird. I thought it time someone stood up for businesses and people in Gloucester, where the debate for the future has been hijacked by a Council that has lost its way. I think Lawrie Ayres’ letter ( Nov edition) addresses much of the misinformation peddled by the anti-CSG group and Councillors in Gloucester and is instructive for everyone in this debate. Obviously, my letter is in stark contrast to Terry Stanton’s contributions to your November edition. He and I agree on one thing though and that is we want to grow our country towns and communities.

John Herd

Dear Mr Premier

I write to you as a constituent of Gloucester. You could describe me as a typical member of the silent majority that have seen enormous damage done by a vocal group of people who have publicly railed against the expansion of the coal mine in the area and for some time now, AGL’s CSG license. No reasonable person could ignore the amount of misinformation that has been peddled by the anti-CSG proponents. It has been a campaign which has clearly damaged retail business and property values and any future potential for growth in our area.

By now you would be aware, that at its last meeting on Wednesday November 18, our local Council passed a motion to request the NSW Government buy back AGL’s CSG license. This decision was made as a response to Mayor Rosenblaum raising the emotive and tragic suicide of a farmer in Chinchilla. At the emotionally charged meeting, community members, predominantly of the anti-CSG group gave accounts of the personal stress, depression, vilification they have suffered over their actions in the CSG issue. It is difficult to feel too much sympathy towards these people, who have demonstrably and consistently shown no consideration for other members of the Gloucester community affected by their actions.

That said, Mayor Rosenblaum and his council have to take a large amount of responsibility for the division amongst Gloucester’s citizens by taking sides in the debate from the outset. Firstly, they have aided, abetted and given succour to the anti-CSG people, by ignoring a request from the police, that they deny permission to this group to allow a primitive campsite on Jacks Road. The purpose of the campsite was to allow the so called Ground Swell group and their ‘Rent-a-Crowd’ to stage protests against AGL’s four CSG test sites. The reason given by the police to council, was to prevent the violence, civic disruption and lawlessness that prevailed at the Glenugle protest site south of Grafton in 2013.

However, the Council granted permission and the residents of Fairbairns Roads bore brunt of a blockade that required around the clock security and police presence to allow them to come and go. In fact the police were having to escort parents and their children to the school bus during the protests, such was the level of intimidation. Ultimately, the results of AGL’s exhaustive and comprehensive scientific tests on the sites were that there was no contamination of underground water. NSW Government has since granted AGL permission to proceed with the extraction of the gas, which the state of NSW sorely needs.

Mr Premier, this issue reminds me of when I first came to Gloucester in the late sixties. A similar action by a minority group, destroyed the viable, legal and responsible timber industry, which employed many people, including fourth generation foresters. In that campaign the silent majority’s views were trampled on by the publicity given to an irresponsible group who continually broke the law and interrupted people going about their work in legitimate businesses. Eventually, the courts and the politicians by their vacillation and inaction, allowed the protesters to prevail.

Interestingly, to my knowledge, the farmers and graziers who are likely to be affected by the extraction of CSG, have willingly had gas line T-pieces on their land for years in preparation for the gas to flow east. Again, I understand that there has been no coercion on them in making their decision.

One would hope that a responsible Council, far from actively discouraging growth and employment, would see it engaged in attracting other industry. For some years now population growth and therefore business activity have stagnated. The Council have given no thought or support to those people who have invested their hard earned money in businesses that have suffered for years, yet pay substantial amounts of the community’s rates. Little consideration has been given by Mayor Rosenblaum and his Council to their anxiety, stress, probable depression and hardship caused by its bias in favour of the disruptive activities of the anti-CSG group of people.

As is common knowledge, Gloucester Council is one of the poorest performing councils in NSW. Basic essential services to the community have declined to a point where it can’t even repair roads, mow parks and community environs in a timely manner. It has forgotten what its main responsibilities are to the community at large and whilst it might appear to be gratuitous advice, it needs to refocus on what should be its real priorities

Mr Premier, there is an alternative forward thinking ‘big picture’ group of people in our community called ‘Advance Gloucester’. They are a voice of reason and seek to inform and unite Gloucester citizens with the facts around the science and all of the issues in the debate. I implore the NSW Government to stand strong with this group and the silent majority and reject Gloucester Councils request regarding the revocation of AGL’s CSG licence.

Yours sincerely

John Herd

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