Council votes against supporting CSG blockade

Wollongong City Council has voted to support lawful protests against coal seam gas mining in the Illawarra but stopped short of backing blockades or providing financial support to protesters.

At a meeting last night, Greens councillor Jill Merrin asked the council to provide support to protesters wanting to blockade Apex Energy’s drilling program.

Merrin wanted the council to provide portable toilets, rubbish facilities and shade structures, and also asked the council to write a letter to the NSW Government stating their support of any blockade

Councillors rejected the proposal to provide logistical support to protestors participating in a blockade, The Illawarra Mercury reported.

Councillor David Brown instead proposed the council pledge support for any lawful and peaceful protest.

"I worry that a blockade could get out of hand," he said,

"We are being asked to support something we haven't yet seen."

"I don't want this to be the end of the matter. Once we see it happening maybe we can support it. But we have got to be careful."

Leigh Colacino supported Brown's motion, stating he opposed CSG mining but said the council could not condone an illegal blockade.

Greens councillor George Takacs said principal support did not go far enough, suggesting the council cap their financial commitment at $10,000.

"We have to go beyond in principle support," he said.

"I don't think this amendment sends a strong enough message."

Councillors John Dorahy, Michelle Blicavs and Greg Petty voted against the council providing any support.

Stop CSG Illawarra spokeswoman Jess Moore spoke at the meeting, saying activists had decided to blockade any exploration sites.

She said there are 16 well sites, and "we have had to find the access points for all 16 – some of which have multiple possible access points."

"We need to know logistically how we would blockade any particular access points and we also would need to know we have toilets and the ability to cook food for people – all of the things that would go along with people essentially camping in an area to staff a 24-hour blockade," she said.

Apex Energy's application to extend its exploration project is under consideration by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission.

The Department of Planning has already recommended the project be approved.

Last month Wollongong councillors stepped up a campaign to send a strong message to the NSW Department of Planning an Infrastructure that they do not want CSG exploration to go ahead in the region.

Greens councillor George Takacs urged the council to demand the government prohibit any new coal, oil and gas exploration permits amid growing environmental concerns.

"The whole debate about coal seam gas completely misses the bloody point – we are talking about the security of our water and agriculture [but] our agriculture had no security in a planet that warms by another four degrees," he said.

"There's only one course of action if we're serious, and that is to not issue any further exploration permits."

Liberal councillor Leigh Colacino's said he was also opposed to CSG exploration near drinking water catchments.

"I think the idea of extraction from within the Wollongong catchment areas is an abhorrent thought," he said.

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