STILL STRONG: Elmar Wolters of Ocean Shores at the anti-CSG protest in Bentley camp.
STILL STRONG: Elmar Wolters of Ocean Shores at the anti-CSG protest in Bentley camp. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Protesters resume waiting game as Metgasco drilling on hold

THE Bentley protest has returned to a waiting game with a significant drop in numbers yesterday, but organisers are confident they have a large community of people "on call".

Gasfields Free Northern Rivers spokesman Adam Guise said the group had "above 1500" on its red alert SMS list and "growing daily".

But Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson refuted claims Monday morning's 2000-strong turnout had derailed the company's plans, saying activities were "influenced by weather and availability of the drilling rig, neither of which we control".

Mr Henderson would not confirm when pre-drill operations would begin, citing commercial-in-confidence.

Richmond Valley Council has given approval for earthworks at the main blockade entrance to allow truck access, according to general manager John Walker.

Other jobs required before drilling can commence include fencing around the drill site and the construction of the temporary workers' camp.

Adding to the delay, the drill rig required for the main job is reportedly bogged in Queensland, following 250mm of rain falling in parts of the Darling Downs over the weekend.

All this suggests work may not start for some time, but protesters are not fazed.

An almost festival atmosphere has descended on the muddy main camp, where new infrastructure has been constructed at a furious pace.

Ocean Shores psychotherapist Elmar Wolter, who came to the camp a week ago said the volunteer-run camp was "self-organising".

"You don't come here to sit around - you see it, you do it," Mr Wolter said.

Veteran environmental activist Bronwynne Coutts said the terms "rent-a-crowd" and "lunatic fringe" were no longer applicable, with people coming in the morning and then leaving for their day jobs.

"On Saturday night we had people coming in literally 50 cars an hour all night," she said.

Knitting Nanna Against Gas and Lismore resident Jennie Dell said "newbies" were being trained in non-violent direct action techniques on almost a daily basis.

"We're trying to train up as many people as possible that verbal abuse and shouting at police is violent behaviour."


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