Fullerton Cove Community Blockade Against CSG: Update
Here’s the latest on the blockade against Dart Energy’s plans to drill two pilot coal seam gas wells in Fullerton Cove (most recent updates are at the bottom of this post):
Monday 20 Aug: The Fullerton Cove community blockade against coal seam gas is established on Monday 21 August, it remains in place.
Residents of Fullerton Cove, on the outskirts of Newcastle, have set up a blockade this morning to prevent Dart Energy from drilling two coal seam gas pilot production wells which are currently under construction.
“Coal seam gas drilling represents an unacceptable risk to our water, our floodplain and our local community,” said local resident Lindsay Clout.
The Fullerton Cove community is calling for a more rigorous environmental assessment of the coal seam gas drilling plans. The site Dart has chosen is on a rural residential street, home to many families and paddocks of animals. It is also around 500 metres from internationally recognised RAMSAR wetlands. You can learn more about the situation with Dart and Fullerton Cove here.
The blockade demand: “We are asking Dart Energy to cease all work at Fullerton Cove pending the outcome of a Land and Environment court challenge.”
Lock the Gate President Drew Hutton joined the blockade on Monday, he said:
“The pattern we are seeing at Fullerton Cove of coal seam gas companies coming into an area and riding rough-shod over local communities is being repeated all over the country. The NSW Government needs to step in immediately, respond to the concerns of Fullerton Cove residents and prevent drilling in this important drinking water source.”
A number of local businesses in Stockton pledge their support, with the bakery, fruito and butchery all donating food to the blockade camp. Locals have also been bringing food donations including fresh eggs from their chickens and ducks. Donations continue to flow in from generous locals residents and businesses.
Many reporters and photographers visit the site and the blockade hits Monday’s 6pm local news, you can watch the NBN report here. Reports on the blockade also appear in the Newcastle Herald (and again here), ABC, Herald Sun, Australian Financial Review, Daily Telegraph, and The Land.
On the evening of Monday 20 August a couple of people from the community blockade attend a Port Stephens ‘meet the candidates’ forum to quiz potential councillors about their position on coal seam gas.
Here’s a video from the first day of the blockade, you can watch it below, or on Youtube:
Tuesday 21 August: A morning tea is held at the blockade and invites are sent to local council candidates inviting them to come along. Nine of the prospective candidates for Port Stephens and Newcastle local councils attend and offer their support to the Fullerton Cove community.
On Tuesday afternoon, local police warn protesters that Dart has requested they be removed so that work constructing the site for upcoming coal seam gas pilot drilling can continue.
NSW Police have informed Fullerton Cove Residents that they will be moving in to evict them from their peaceful blockade of a coal seam gas drilling site on Wednesday.
The police have informed protestors that Dart Energy have asked the police to remove the residents.
The residents have indicated their intention to maintain the community blockade until a proper Environment Impact Statement has been developed for the proposed gas drilling.
In response to the eviction threat numbers swell at the blockade with many camping over on Tuesday night, on Wednesday morning the blockade continues, now with a tractor joining the marquees and horse float that were already in place in front of the gates of the site where Dart want to drill for coal seam gas.
“The tractor is a symbol of our small rural community and the risks that coal seam gas poses to our way of life” said Lindsay Clout, spokesperson for the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group.
Wednesday 22 August: On Wednesday morning Alan Jones chats to some Fullerton Cove locals who are at the blockade. Jones tells listeners that he has spoken with local police who tell him they do not intend to remove the community blockade today (Wednesday, 22 August).
NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher speaks out against the community saying:
“I expect Police to uphold Dart’s valid and lawful consent by enabling access.”
Police moved in to break up the community blockade on Wednesday afternoon. In a demonstration of peaceful protest, two local women, Lisa and Julie, have locked-on to a tractor that is at blocking the gates the site Dart plan to drill at.
On Wednesday afternoon the Newcastle Herald reports that police are issuing protesters with infringement notices for not moving on and have advised the group that the site must be vacated by 6pm. Two local women, Julie and Lisa, lock on to a tractor that is blocking the gate access to the site where Dart want to drill for CSG. They are spoken to by police officers but refuse to move. Police leave the blockade around 5pm and do not return.
Thursday 23 August: On Thursday the protest enters its fourth day and locals Lisa and Julie remain locked-on to a tractor for over 24 hours. Alan Jones speaks to the blockaders and offers his support to the community’s protest against Dart’s CSG, listen to the segment here.
Also on Thursday – one local runs a carnival business and sets up a jumping castle at the blockade. The blockade hears from Peter Martin, former banking CEO and now convenor of the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group. Peter has recently been in the United States visiting the shale and coal seam gas fields. [EDIT: Peter's talk is postponed due to the storm, he will speak at the blockade 9am Friday morning.]
Residents issue a statement to media about a family fun day planned for Sunday:
“Our family fun day will include rides, music, food, and balloons. Local Fullerton Cove business OFA Showstar will donate a jumping castle and a small Ferris wheel for the event,” said spokesperson Lindsay Clout.
“This is a great opportunity for people to come down and visit our blockade, and talk to the Fullerton Cove residents about the the threat that coal seam gas poses to the community and the environment.”
Residents also take the opportunity to thank the many local businesses who have generously donated goods to the community blockade since it started on Monday:
We would like to thank the following businesses for their valued support during the week: Stockton Family Meats, Rudders Cottage Bakery Stockton, Stockton Family Fruits, Browns Butchers Raymond Terrace, McDonalds Williamtown, Stockton IGA, Metro Garage Williamtown, Hunter Organics, Natural Tucker, The Fresh Ingredient, Merewether Food World, Festival IGA Stockton, Domino’s Pizza Raymond Terrace, Hunter Meat Wholesalers Stockton.
Friday 24 August: Friday morning and the blockade continues into its fifth day. Peter Martin (convenor of the Southern Highlands Coal Action Group) speaks to a group at the blockade about what he saw during his recent visit the coal seam gas and shale gas fields of the United States.
The Newcastle Herald ran this story in the paper this morning, and here’s an update from the site:
The blockade against coal seam gas mining at Fullerton Cove, near Newcastle, continues into its fifth day this morning. The residents group will today file legal proceedings against Dart Energy in the NSW Land and Environment Court questioning the lawfulness of their coal seam gas drilling plans at the Cove.
“We are calling on Dart Energy to listen to the wishes of the local community and stop work at the site until the matter has been fully heard and a final decision made by the Court,” said Lindsay Clout, spokesperson for Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group.
“We are asking both Dart and the NSW Government to ensure that there is a full Environmental Impact Statement, including detailed water studies, and a formal public exhibition process before any drilling proceeds,” he said.
On Friday afternoon the Fullerton Cove community blockade issued a statement about its legal challenge against Dart Energy:
The Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group have this afternoon filed a legal challenge against Dart Energy in the Land and Environment Court.
The Group is bringing the challenge against two proposed pilot appraisal wells at Fullerton Cove under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
“The ball is squarely in their court. Dart Energy now have the opportunity to show us and the wider community that they do have a social conscience by waiting for the court to make a ruling,” said Lindsay Clout, spokesperson with Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group.
Over the last few days the community blockade has been inviting visitors to the camp to leave their hat hung on the fence: ”Every hat on the fence represents a person who has visited the blockade, is here in spirit, but couldn’t stick around this time. Put your hat on the fence, with your phone number attached, and we’ll give you a bell when we need you the most.”
In other news, country music star Lee Kernaghan played a concert at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre last night where we were told he gave a shout-out congratulating the Fullerton Cove community for its blockade against Dart’s coal seam gas plans.
Saturday 25 August: The blockade is preparing for Sunday’s family fun day from 10am-2pm with carnival rides, face-painting and a BBQ lunch. More details are here.
Close to 400 people attended the Family Fun Day at the Fullerton Cove blockade site today in an extraordinary show of opposition to proposed coal seam gas mining in the area.
The Fun Day included live music, information, face painting, a jumping castle and a sausage sizzle at the blockade site as the action entered its seventh day.
Monday 27 August: The blockade has now been in place for a full week. The Newcastle Herald ran this story about the family fun day and there was a short story on NBN local news last night too. Dart told the Herald that protesters need to choose between jumping castles or jobs - but jumping castle are the job of one local family, and the other Fullerton Cove locals are saying they are happy with the jobs they have now!
Senator Lee Rhiannon and Newcastle councillor Michael Osborne visit the blockade:
Tuesday 28 August: After a misty morning around the camp fire listening to Fullerton Cove local Justin Hamilton on Alan Jones’ breakfast show and three drive-bys by police (two in unmarked vehicles), the blockade received word mid-morning that police were on their way to break up the blockade. The numbers swelled as the community came down to block the gate and show Dart Energy they do not want coal seam gas in their neighbourhood.
Greens NSW MLC Cate Faehrmann and Newcastle Greens Lord Mayoral candidate John Sutton were visiting the blockade on Tuesday morning and both were issued with infringement notices for choosing to stand by the community in their fight against CSG. 95 year old Linda Reynolds was also among those issued with infringement notices for refusing the police order to leave the site. Around 10 infringement notices were issued.
Two local women, Lisa McDonald and Julie Wood locked on to a tractor blocking access to the site where Dart Energy plan to drill. They were cut off by Police Rescue, arrested, and charged with obstruction. They will appear before Raymond Terrace Court next month.
Here is part of a media release by the Fullerton Cove residents action group:
Riot Police were called in today to break up a community blockade which has stopped work on a coal seam gas drilling operation for the past nine days, in Fullerton Cove, near Newcastle.
Police Rescue officers used grinders to remove two local women, Julie Wood and Lisa McDonald, who were locked to a tractor at the blockade. Police then cleared the blockade which has been preventing Dart Energy from carrying out work in the area.
The community has refused to give up the fight to protect the area – which includes aquifers that make up part of Newcastle’s drinking water supply, as well as internationally protected wetlands – and has re-established the protest camp across the road from the blockade site on a residents property.
Wednesday 29 August: The community maintains a presence in Fullerton Cove. A camp has now been established across from the site where Dart is continuing preparations to bring in a drill rig to do two pilot coal seam gas wells.
Dart has increased security presence on site and put in place concrete barriers and bringing in an excavator which now sits in front of the property’s gates.
The community remains defiant and has vowed to continue its protest of Dart’s coal seam gas drilling. Their legal case against Dart will soon be heard in the Land and Environment court.
Thursday 30 August: Statement from The Wilderness Society Newcastle:
[NSW Premier Barry] O’Farrell refused to meet with Fullerton Cove residents, even though he was attending an event just 15 minutes from the Fullerton Cove coal seam gas drilling site.
Fullerton Cove resident Lindsay Clout this morning requested a meeting with the Premier during his visit to the region.
After being ignored by the Premier’s office, residents took it upon themselves to visit the Premier’s Tomago event, to request a brief meeting.
“The Premier ignored the five Fullerton Cove residents who waited patiently outside his Tomago event this afternoon – he choose to drive right past,” said Lindsay Clout, spokesperson for the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group. [...]
Luke Foley, Shadow Minister for Environment joined Fullerton Cove community members today at the Fullerton Cove site to hear their concerns and join in their quest to get answers from Barry O’Farrell.
Here are some Fullerton Cove residents waiting to meet the Premier, and watching him drive away, refusing to meet them:
Friday 31 August: The community continues to wait for their case against Dart Energy to be heard in the Land and Environment court, and maintains a presence across the road from Dart’s intended drill site. In support of the residents of Fullerton Cove, The Wilderness Society are calling on people concerned about coal seam gas and how the government has reacted to the Fullerton Cove community to contact the Premier. Here is how you can help:
CALL BARRY TO ACT NOW: CANCEL DRILLING AT FULLERTON COVE
The NSW Government must act now to stop the Dart Energy pilot production coal seam gas development that threatens the Fullerton Cove community, our water catchment and internationally significant wetlands.
This project, approved under the watch of the O’Farrell Government in June of this year, risks contaminating local groundwater bores that residents use for drinking water as well as the Ramsar listed wetlands located just 500m from the drill site.
There are some places simply to precious to mine. Fullerton Cove is one of those places.
The Dart Energy exploration project has already had a number of non-compliance issues including ‘the failure to properly rehabilitate a site … possible acid sulphate soil issues’ and a ‘lack of appropriate surface water and groundwater monitoring.’
Due to these environmental failures, Barry O’Farrell must call on the Energy Minister Chris Hartcher, who had the power to suspend or cancel Dart Energy’s exploration licence under Petroleum Act.
Call or email Barry O’Farrell and and tell him Fullerton Cove is no place for a gas field. He must act now to protect our water supply.
Also contact your local member, Craig Baumann for Port Stephens or Tim Owen for Newcastle.
Some points you may want to mention to Barry and your local member:
- The residents of Fullerton Cove and surrounding areas such as Fern Bay, Stockton, Medowie, Port Stephens and Newcastle do not want a coal seam gas field in their backyards on top of an important groundwater system
- Both the Port Stephens and Newcastle councils have passed moratoriums to oppose coal seam gas drilling in Fullerton Cove
- It is in within Energy Minister Chris Hartchers powers to suspend drilling in Fullerton Cove, without having to pay any compensation
- The riot police were recently called in to break up a peaceful protest of local residents who want to protect their water and community, a 95 year old great grandmother was given a fine by these police
- Dart Energy have not consulted with the local community since the community launched the peaceful protest and have not listened to their plea for a stop work until their case is heard in the Land and Environment Court
- Dart Energy’s exploration project was found to be non-compliant on a number of environmental issues including ‘acid-sulphate soils’
- Fullerton Cove was found to be at the highest risk of acid-sulphate soil issues of five sites studies in the Lower Hunter Estuary
The Hon. Barry O’Farrell, MP
GPO Box 5341
SYDNEY NSW 2001
P: 02 9228 5239
The Hon. Craig Baumann MP
82 Port Stephens St,
Raymond Tce NSW 2324
P: 02 4987 4455
The Hon. Tim Owen MP
414 Hunter St
Newcastle NSW 2300
P: 02 4926 1126
Monday 3 September: The environmental review process that Dart Energy carried out to gain its state government approvals to drill for coal seam gas at Fullerton Cove has been slammed by Dr Gavin Mudd, an environmental engineer specialising in the impacts of mining, with an emphasis on groundwater and impact assessment. Here is his full statement released this morning:
A senior lecturer at Monash University, Dr Gavin Mudd, has criticised the desktop environmental review conducted by Dart Energy for its proposed Fullerton Cove gas wells, saying that it falls short of standards employed elsewhere in the mining industry.“There is simply no substantial hydrogeological field data presented on which to assess the pilot drilling proposed by Dart Energy at Fullerton Cove – their proposal is based on hope not on science.“The desktop Review of Environmental Factors released by the company makes a set of claims but does not provide sufficient evidence to support them.“The Dart Energy approach – as approved by the NSW government - appears to be leaving everything to future studies, despite impact assessment requiring thorough baseline studies prior to development.“It is basically putting the cart before the horse with a mining practice that is known to present genuine risks to groundwater.“Detailed baseline water studies should form a core part of the assessment of this type of drilling in a sensitive hydrological environment like Fullerton Cove.“The new Federal Independent Expert Scientific Committee recommended baseline studies prior to drilling at Fullerton Cove and it is unfortunate that this advice was ignored in the approvals granted by both the NSW and Federal Governments.“The impact assessment discussed in the Dart Energy review as future work should be conducted before the proposed pilot wells are drilled, not afterwards”.
The Land and Environment Court will rule tomorrow on whether coal seam gas operations by Dart Energy will be halted pending a full legal challenge.
The Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group have filed a legal challenge against Dart Energy in the Land and Environment Court questioning the legality of their proposed coal seam gas pilot project under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
They are seeking an injunction on Tuesday to prevent further work on the project until the case has been heard.
Tuesday 4 September: The Land and Environment court is taking 24 hours to consider whether or not there will be an injunction to have Dart Energy stop work on coal seam gas drilling at Fullerton Cove while the court case regarding the pilot well approval is heard.
Join the Fullerton Cove community campaign on Facebook for all the latest updates. Fullerton Cove blockade is also on Twitter and has a website here. Click here to take a look at a gallery of photos from the blockade.