Maitland activists will join a groundswell of opposition against the coal seam gas industry in a 2000 kilometre protest along Australia’s main roads.
As part of the Sunday rally – touted as the country’s longest protest – cars and banners will be positioned along the highway from Newcastle to Queensland.
And the people of Maitland are urged to stand with their neighbours on the issue.
“Remember, Maitland is not exempt from CSG just because it’s not currently producing gas,” organiser of the local arm of the protest Marg Edwards said. “We’re next to open-cut [mining] right now, but in the future we might have CSG in this area too.”
Despite the widespread public criticism of coal seam gas, much of the state is open to exploration and 238 wells are operational.
Many of those wells are found in the Hunter Valley, west of Sydney, near Gloucester and Narrabri.
Hunter Environment Lobby president and Maitland Greens
member Jan Davis said the protest was about raising awareness of the risks of coal seam gas mining in agricultural areas.
“Some people believe gas is a cleaner alternative to coal mining, but it relies on the same coal deposits and only looks cleaner on the surface,” Ms Davis said.
A government productivity report on the Australian gas industry, published in March, concluded that the gas industry faced strong resistance from the community partly because of the poor early record of the way companies dealt with landholders and the public.
“Coal companies have a shocking record, they’ve been disrespectful, they divide and they silence communities,” Ms Davis said.
She said the coal industry’s constant lobbying of government had impaired the democratic process and thereby heightened the need for grassroots resistance.
“The evidence available from the United States seems to show fracking frequently contaminates aquifers and underground water supplies,” Ms Davis said.
“It’s extremely dangerous in farming communities and that’s why this protest is focusing on those areas.”
Visit 19 April Big Pacific Highway (Newcastle to Grafton) Action Group on Facebook for more information about the protest.