NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts pictured talking with Lock the Gate's Ian Gaillard at Casino late last month.
NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts pictured talking with Lock the Gate's Ian Gaillard at Casino late last month. Hamish Broome

Protest had ‘zero bearing’ on Metgasco decision: Minister

PEOPLE power was not a factor in the decision to suspend Metgasco's exploration licence, it was the company's mislabelling of the Rosella tight sands well as "conventional", according to Resources Minister Anthony Roberts.

The minister refused to acknowledge community opposition in the suspension, which Mr Roberts publicly denounced as "mob rule" in Casino last month.

"Pressure from any group, be it industry or protesters, is not a factor," a spokesman for the minister said.

Mr Roberts said in ordering the suspension he was also aware of concerns raised before ICAC.

But a spokesman said the minister would not comment on whether he was referring to alleged links between Metgasco's major shareholders and disgraced NSW Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid.

Trading on Metgasco shares were frozen temporarily yesterday, with the company saying it was confident it complied with the PEL 16 licence conditions and was seeking to demonstrate this to the government. 

Meanwhile, oil and gas lobby group Australian Petroleum and Production Association labelled the suspension of Metgasco's PEL 16 licence as a "dangerous precedent".

It said in a statement that resources projects in the state now faced an "uncertain future courtesy of a campaign by the Greens and extreme environmental groups".

The public opposition on show at the Bentley blockade "should not mean that genuine consultation with the community has been ineffective", the association said.

Local shareholder John Vaughan said the decision would ultimately prove "embarrassing" for the government.

"(Metgasco) spent $100 million since 1996 on the Northern Rivers developing the resource and exploring. They've complied with every letter of the law in NSW," he said.

"It's like someone getting a DA approved for their house and 12 years later the council saying, 'We'll take the DA away thanks very much'.

"You expect these sorts of decisions in Third World countries, not in NSW."

Bentley landholder Peter Graham, whose family owned the property where Metgasco planned to drill the Rosella well, said "fearmongering" by Lock the Gate had not been properly addressed by the industry.

"The issue is not about gas. It's about communication."


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