The NSW Supreme Court has ruled to allow Metgasgo to drill at Bentley, overturning a state government decision which banned the company from drilling in the face of large protests.
The Metgasco Limited V Minister for Resources and Energy case saw Justice Button declare that the decision of the minister to suspend Metgasco’s operations was not made according to law, and focussed on the results of consultation, namely protests, rather than the means by which consultation was carried out.
“The Delegate [minister Anthony Roberts] was entitled, by way of more than one pathway leading to the guidelines, to consider whether Metgasco had engaged in consultation that could be characterised as being effective in its attributes but not its results,” Justice Button said.
“That includes whether the community consultation plan was sufficient.”
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) welcomed the decision, saying protest action should not be considered by government and regulators as an indicator of ‘ineffective’ consultation leading to grounds for suspension of operations.
“Last year’s suspension decision only served to encourage the actions of protestors intent on stopping natural gas production,” APPEA stated.
The Metgasco exploration licence has been renewed until 12 November 2017.
Resources and Energy minister Anthony Roberts referred the Metgasco Bentley Project to the Independent Commission Against Corruption in May 2014, under accusations that the exploration licence had been granted without adequate community consultation.
Metgasco have now said the company will need police support to escort drilling equipment onto site, which will occur in about three months.
Minister Roberts has said the government will review the judgement.
Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson confirmed on Friday the company will seek compensation for the unlawful suspension, for damages inflicted on the company and it’s 5000 shareholders.