Two protesters chained to tractor at Fullerton Cove blockade

Police have started issuing infringement notices at the blockade at a Fullerton Cove coal seam gas pilot project.

Police are speaking to people individually and asking them to leave and handing out the notices if they refuse.

Officers have told the protesters that they must vacate the site by 6pm.

More residents have arrived to support the cause.

Two women, Fullerton Cove residents Lisa McDonald and grandmother Julie Wood, have chained themselves to a tractor at the front of the property.

"It's got to be done. The government won't help us and this is what we have to do," said Ms McDonald.

Police have issued a statement saying they will address media at Raymond Terrace about their response to the action.

Dart Energy has received state and federal consent to drill four test holes at the site, which has been blockaded since Monday morning.

Energy Minister Chris Hartcher said the company’s application had been subject to a multi-agency environmental assessment which found the project was environmentally safe.

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Video by Dean Osland

‘‘The NSW Government respects the right of people to protest peacefully, but these protests must not impede Dart Energy’s approved work program,’’ Mr Hartcher said.

‘‘If and when Dart seek to access the site they should be free to do so, and I expect Police to uphold Dart’s valid and lawful consent by enabling access.’’

A Dart Energy spokesman said the blockade was financially hurting local contractors.

He said the company had no issue with the protesters expressing their view provided they allowed it carry out its approved work.

‘‘We have established that the majority of protesters are from activists groups such as Rising Tide and Lock the Gate,’’ the spokesman said.

‘‘These people are unwilling to listen to any reasonable facts.’’

He said all necessary environmental assessments for the project had been undertaken.

‘‘The project was subject to comprehensive environmental assessments over a nine month period from both state and federal regulators including the Commonwealth’s new Independent Expert Scientific Committee before approval was granted. He the company would not drill through the Tomago Sandbeds aquifer and the project posed no risk to Newcastle’s drinking water.

‘‘The company will not use hydraulic fracturing techniques. We only use water based drilling fluids. Dart will use the best technology available to ensure aquifers are fully protected,’’ he said.

The Newcastle Herald earlier reported that about 30 protesters were blocking the entrance to Dart Energy's pilot coal seam gas project at Fullerton Cove this morning.

Police said earlier this morning they would not intervene in the dispute unless they were requested to do so by Dart Energy.

Fullerton Cove coal seam gas protestors defy police

A BLOCKADE at the entrance of the Fullerton Cove pilot coal seam gas project is staying despite police asking protesters to leave the site.

The protest, which began on Monday morning, will continue in defiance of Dart Energy’s plans to start test drilling on the Fullerton Cove Road site.

Resident Lindsay Clout said police had given the group of about 30 until last night to vacate the area and allow the company’s contractors access to the site this morning.

‘‘We’re gonna sit tight, we’re not going to move from the site,’’ he said.

‘‘The police informed us yesterday that we would be in breach of the Petroleum Act by preventing people from attending a petroleum site.

‘‘We have taken advice from the Environmental Defenders Office and they informed us that it only applies to petroleum works and not roadworks, which is what is happening right now.’’

The protesters are demanding that an environmental impact statement be undertaken for the project.

The Environmental Defenders Office confirmed yesterday that it would seek a court order to force Dart Energy to carry out an environmental impact statement.

The company has argued that the assessment is not necessary because the project has already been intensively scrutinised.

‘‘A review of environmental factors was conducted that demonstrated the proposal will not result in a significant impact on the environment,’’ a spokesman said.

‘‘This is supported by the approval to proceed being granted following the extensive federal and state government review.’’

The project has been backed by the NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Division of Resources and Energy, the Office of Water, Office of Environment and Heritage and the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability.

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