Gloucester CSG protest: Michael Caton joins demonstration outside Sydney AGL meeting

 AN activist who chained himself to a truck in a desperate bid to stop work progressing at AGL’s coal seam gas pilot site at Waukivory on Thursday said protesters won’t stop in their bid to hinder the energy giant’s plans for Gloucester.

It was another dramatic day in the fight over coal seam gas mining near the town with another arrest bringing the total to 10 since Monday.

Dan Linzini, a 34-year-old from Noraville, was found locked to a truck at about 6.30am.  He refused to remove himself when asked by police, and was eventually cut off by the Police Rescue Unit at about 11am.

A former tradesman, Mr Linzini is a veteran of a number of blockades, and described Gloucester as ‘‘our own backyard’’ and ‘‘a beautiful place’’. 

‘‘Growing up on the Central Coast you could always come here to camp and swim; it’s always been clean and friendly,’’ he said.

Groundswell Gloucester member John Watts tweeted this image after a man locked himself onto a fracking rig at the AGL site on Thursday. Pic: Twitter

Groundswell Gloucester member John Watts tweeted this image after a man locked himself onto a fracking rig at the AGL site on Thursday. Pic: Twitter

Mr Linzini is part of a growing group of protesters at Gloucester who do not believe AGL’s assurances that its coal seam gas drilling practices are safe.

Another woman, 60-year-old grandmother Marnie Johnson, was unlocked by police after she joined other protesters in locking herself to the entry of the AGL site.

‘‘I have been a Gloucester resident for over 20 years; my generation has a responsibility to protect Gloucester for my grandchildren’s future, that’s why I’m here taking a stand,’’ she said.

It was a markedly different picture from the one painted in Sydney where AGL was holding its annual general meeting.  Company chairman Jerry Maycock told investors of ‘‘encouraging signs’’.

‘‘While we still have to convince some people that AGL is one of the best companies to undertake gas exploration and production, the board is pleased that there are encouraging signs that many more people are supportive of what we are doing and how we are doing it,’’ Mr Maycock said.

AGL’s Gloucester project – 110  wells  in its first stage – is the latest frontline in the fight over coal seam gas, and dozens of protesters were also present at the Sydney meeting. 

Actor Michael Caton, star of hit Australian film The Castle, said gas extraction should take place away from prime agricultural land.

‘‘You are really risking long-term damage to the environment, to rich agricultural land,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s uncanny how they hone in on the really good agricultural land, where there are places you could extract gas from, where the water table isn’t as valuable.’’

However Mr Maycock defended the environmental safety of coal seam gas, saying AGL took great care to protect water supplies.

Protesters outside the AGL meeting on Thursday. Pic: Peter Rae

Protesters outside the AGL meeting on Thursday. Pic: Peter Rae

‘‘The health of local residents and the well-being of the environment is a matter of paramount importance to the AGL board,’’ he said.

He also focused on the need for NSW to develop its coal seam gas resources in order to meet its energy demand, and said gas price increases were inevitable.

‘‘Even our most ambitious estimates do not foresee large quantities of gas from this project being available until 2017,’’ Mr Maycock said.

AGL has flagged a rise in underlying profit for this financial year as it banks on a colder winter in 2015.

In a trading update, AGL said it expected to report an underlying net profit of between $575million and $635million for 2014-15, up from $562million last financial year.

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