Farmers and community members celebrate Metgasco decision
UPDATE 3PM: A GROUP of farmers and community members from the Northern Rivers travelled to Sydney to attend the AGM to witness the Metgasco vote.
Locals have their say
"We are ecstatic! This is something we've worked hard towards and looked forward to for many years," Northern Rivers Gasfield Free Regional Coordinator, Dean Draper said.
"The local community finally has some closure and an end to the torment and fear that has pervaded the Northern Rivers since this company started mining for coal seam gas here.
"Metgasco never received a social licence in the Northern Rivers. They have never been welcome, our community has demonstrated loudly and clearly in many surveys, marches and actions that this dangerous industry is not acceptable under any circumstances.
"Taking the buyout deal was the best way out for Metgasco and its shareholders.It's just a pity the company didn't listen to the community sooner as they would have saved themselves and the Government a lot of money.
"The community will again have the confidence in the safety and long term sustainability of the region which is sure to fuel a lot of investment and growth in our region," Mr Draper said.
Politicians have their say
Page MP Kevin Hogan has applauded Metgasco shareholders for accepting the offer.
"I acknowledge Metgasco shareholders and applaud them for accepting the Government's offer today," he said.
"I congratulate the Coalition State Government and its gas plan buyback process.
"The local community can stand proud that we have made our voice heard and the democratic process has delivered."
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said the NSW Government had driven this successful outcome which will deliver for the Northern Rivers community and remove the coal seam gas mess left by Labor.
"This is an historic day for the Northern Rivers and the NSW Nationals team is proud to achieve this great outcome for the Northern Rivers," Mr Gulaptis said.
"This removes the last of the Northern Rivers' petroleum exploration licences which is exactly what the community wanted.
"The Nationals and the NSW Government have listened to the people of the Northern Rivers and achieved a result that delivers for the people of the Northern Rivers.
"We didn't create the coal seam gas mess in this region - it was Labor which handed out PELs like confetti, but we have now fixed it."
Member for Lismore Thomas George said the news followed the NSW Government's successful buyback of PEL 445 covering 565,693 hectares around Kyogle, Lismore, Nimbin and Evans Head.
"There are no more PELs on the Northern Rivers. We've shown we're committed to achieving the right results for the Northern Rivers through a legal and responsible buybacks process," he said.
Locals will be celebrating at Tatts Hotel in Lismore from 3pm.
UPDATE 2.30PM: RESULTS of the poll:
- 152,468,468 shares were used in support of accepting the government's buyback offer
- 108,564,386 were against
- 634,075 abstained.
METGASCO has voted to accept the State Government's $25m offer to buy back the company's three Northern Rivers coal seam gas licences at an extraordinary meeting in Sydney this morning.
The board of directors had unanimously supported the buy back offer.
Had shareholders voted to reject the offer, Metgasco would have restarted seismic testing and drilling operations.
It would also have continued to pursue legal action for compensation from the state government over the "unlawful" suspension of their licence.
In May last year, the State Government suspended Metgasco's licence for failing to meet community consultation conditions with its Bentley operations.
However, the decision to suspend Metgasco's licence was overturned by the NSW Supreme Court in April this year.
In a letter to Metgasco Shareholders on December 4, Chairman Len Gill said it was in the company's best financial interest to accept the Government's $25m proposal.
"We are of the firm view that it is in the best interest of your company to accept the Government's proposal," the letter says.
"Simply stated, the NSW Government's $25 million settlement / buy-back proposal exceeds what we are likely to achieve when the risks associated with ongoing exploration and development in NSW are considered.
"These include the chances of successful court action and the quantum of likely compensation."
The letter said if the proposal was accepted, Metgasco would start 2016 with cash in excess of $30m.
Greens NSW mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham welcomed the announcement and said the "Metgasco fiasco" was a lesson about the importance of earning a social licence to operate.
"Metgasco patently failed to do this and the shareholders have paid the price," he said.
"Neither AGL in Gloucester, nor Santos in the North West have earned a social licence from those communities and should heed what has happened to Metgasco when contemplating the future of their coal seam gas projects.
"New coal mines also do not have a social licence, with significant community opposition as well as widespread concern about the impact on the climate.
"The goals of the Paris climate agreement will only be met if we phase out fossil fuels and that clearly means new fossil fuel industries, such as coal seam gas, must be prohibited."
UPDATE, 2PM: GASFIELD Free Northern Rivers regional coordinator Dean Draper said the Metgasco shareholder decision would be very close if postal votes were anything to go by.
"The Yes vote was a little higher," he said from the Metgasco general meeting. "So while I am not sure, it's looking good."
The announcement is expected to be posted on ASX later today.
Anti gas activist Scott Sledge said there was a lot of debate in the meeting about whether or not Metgasco was honest and forthright about prospects in the Northern Rivers.
"There was quite a lot of anger in the room," he said. "They are now tabulating vote.
"There is a slight edge in pre-polling in favour of accepting the offer but it will depend on vote."
One shareholder echoed he majority shareholder sentiment, saying he was "dismayed that we are sitting here and talking about sovereign risk What should we learn as international shareholders about investing in gas in NSW?"
Chairman Len Gill said "If you ask me the lesson is about getting jurisdictional support. Having said that up until four years ago I would have said NSW was an excellent place to invest."
Mr Gill said exploratory gas mining in the Northern Rivers requires high upfront capital project that the company does not have and urged shareholders to accept.
Peter Henderson said the NSW police would not help with further mining.
UPDATE, 1.20PM: A TOTAL of 51% of postal Metgasco shareholder votes are in favour of accepting the State Government's buy back offer.
The final vote is still pending.
ORIGINAL: SHAREHOLDERS of Metgasco will meet in Sydney today to vote on whether to accept the New South Wales Government's $25 million buy back offer.
The company's Board of Directors have recommended the shareholders accept the offer to buy back the three Northern Rivers exploration licences and settle all litigation.
Local farmers and community members from the Northern Rivers will be in Sydney tomorrow to hold a "peaceful action" outside the meeting, urging shareholders to "take the money and run".