Think Global, act local to #protectgloucester from #AGL #csg, says @RobOakeshott1

Thursday, 23/10/14 – 1.24pm: Email from an old Gloucester constituent and friend; 

“AGL has advised the NSW Office of CSG that it wishes to commence fracture stimulation activities on Waukivory13 this week, but AGL requires several additional approvals before they can start fracture stimulation activities:  an approved produced water management plan and an approved groundwater monitoring and modelling plan.  OCSG is yet to approve the plans and it is currently considering AGL’s submission and is seeking advice from the NSW Office of Water. 

AGL has all the fracturing equipment in place, brought in under Police escort earlier this week at 4.30am. 30 personnel have arrived in Gloucester for 60 days, so they are really putting on the pressure for the Government to approve these conditions as soon as possible. 

There remains dispute over the underground maps.  To quote Professor XX XX  “I have assembled the attached west-east section of the geology through the Waukivory wells based on information in  AGL reports, and the 1991 Geological Survey map.  The E-F cross-section on the Geological Survey map is essentially the same section as the AGL seismic survey”.  

As can be seen from the map comparisons, there is a difference between these maps and the publicly released ‘cartoon’ impression, which is extremely misleading.” 



Place-based decision-making, community empowerment and social licence have all been punched to the ground in the Gloucester Valley this week.

The 4am arrival of AGL’s specialised ‘fracking’ equipment, under a full police escort, was the heavy fist that did it.  Set up behind a concrete wall within metres of homes and a few kilometres from the town CBD, drilling and fracking is now to begin.

The community is massively divided over this issue of coal seam gas.

There are those that want it, arguing strongly for jobs and progress, and trusting of the  Government message that environmental impacts are negligible.

Overwhelming this view is the view that many think Government shouldn’t enter into such unknown, risky behaviour, particularly when it comes to drinking water.

Also, there are more locals who believe jobs and progress come from an entirely different vision for the future of the Valley, shaped around the gateway communities to the World Heritage Barrington Tops, and the rich farming lands that coal seam gas sits beneath.

For what it is worth, my read of the community, based on 17 years in public life, and attending many meetings and rally’s over the years, is the community is 5:1 against AGL coming in and fracking.  For every supporter of CSG jobs and progress, there are at least five supporters of an alternate economic future for the region, with a deep concern about the risk to water, and an anger and frustration that Government is choosing the royalty licence over the social licence.

Because of this, the community feels not listened to, disempowered, and steam-rolled by higher authorities who it is felt bear no consequence of the risks of their decisions.

That is why it is my strongly held view that, in this case, Executive Government has not acted for the people, but for itself.  The Crown is behaving aloof of the people.  A very worrying time.

When the news broke this week of the 4am fracking raid, and when long-term residents like father of seven, local carpenter, Brett Jacobs felt the need to be arrested to save his family and his community, the words of a former NSW Planning official kept ringing in my ears.

This planning official was famous for always saying; ‘if the Crown finds a resource, it has an obligation to the taxpayer to harvest it’.

And I keep coming back to these words, as it seems to capture the Government position better than most. A ‘harvest obligation’ from the Crown is the centre of the debate that is dividing communities on coal seam gas, as it is with so many other natural resource issues around the globe today.

The Crown, represented by Executive Government, genuinely thinks it is doing us all a favour by harvesting any and every resource it can get its hands on.

In response, I say this would be ok if the term ‘resource’ was more broadly defined than what it is today, to include the ‘resources’ of biodiversity, food, soil and water and the ‘human resources’ such as farming and tourism.

I say this would be ok if the term ‘harvest’ had transparent principles of ecosystem-wide sustainability, and appropriate criminal sanctions on company directors if what is said on paper doesn’t match practice.

I say this would be ok if NSW ICAC was not exposing corruption by politicians in the direct neighbouring Valley, in a directly related industry, at exactly the same time as all these decisions for the future of Gloucester are being made.

I say this would be ok if sitting local politicians didn’t hide their personal AGL shares, and only divest them when exposed by frustrated community members.

I say this would be ok if these same local politicians were more transparent about where their own head office political party donations were coming from, and why.

And above all else, I say this would be ok if place-based ideas around social licence were more than mere patronising platitudes within Government, and that a genuine commitment to social licence sitting alongside a ‘harvest obligation’ was how Government chose to work.

Because the very term ‘Lock the Gate’ says it all about this complete breakdown between Government and ‘its people’.

And the words of Brett Jacobs, when arrested this week, were words that totally expose Government failure when he said “what’s driven me is the health of our children and the air and water of this valley.  It’s bigger than AGL making a quick buck”.

Why is this guy now the criminal?  He should be the local MP with such eloquent and sensible words, with a correct focus on the kids.

My only surprise this week is just how polite the communities within the Gloucester Valley have been.  It is a credit to them.  I hope it’s not because of a collective mood of deflation and defeat.

AGL hold their AGM in Sydney today.  A bus has left from Gloucester to attend, and proxies have been arranged amongst shareholders.  There is passion in protest on the front steps from a small community of just 3,000 residents.  It is the latest desperate plea to be heard.

And Government remains as typically silent as it can get away with.  Local politicians dodge and weave. This behaviour is rightly being compared to their campaign slogans – ‘100% community’ and ‘working for you’.  The people are right to remind them of these shallow words.

That social licence is on its knees on the Mid-North Coast of NSW is not just a sad moment for Gloucester, but a sad moment for community politics everywhere.

And that social licence has now, clearly, become an arbitrary tool within Government to be used only when the rich and powerful request it (think horse studs and wineries and radio announcers), I do worry for the implications of this in the emerging next chapter in Australian politics.

It is a truism in politics that every action has a reaction.  The Crown ignores the people at its peril.

Think Global, Act Gloucester.  Now.





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  1. I have read with utter dismay through ICAC and other hearings, the level of corruption to which some politicians have fallen – and moreover, their apparent belief notion that there is nothing wrong with accepting donations from private developers, etc., JUST SO LONG AS YOU ARE NOT CAUGHT. Then you have to resign. But anyone that can get away with it, does so, and is apparently rewarded handsomely.

    I detect a complete lack of ethical conduct in many of our politicians – overwhelmingly Liberal by all accounts. And the attitude of ‘the ends justifies the means’ – after all, they believe they were born to rule, and they have among the worst and most concentrated media (a la Mr Murdoch) in the western world. The ALP found similar lack of ethics in the Rudd (non-PM) era – who’s supporters similarly felt no need to worry about Australia, while they were so concerned with having Rudd as PM. This level of delusion in Australian politics is deeply disturbing.

    Rob Oakshott, why aren’t you still there! Not that I could blame you for not wanting to hang around. The Australian Parliament is a little like the once naive happy community group that just wanted to do good things, and then someone takes over who genuinely believes he/she is the only person capable of running the group, and promptly loads the place with their own supporters, and drive the nice people away. Parliament seems to be full of horrid people who actively drive nice people away (Madam Speaker………!) because nice people can’t be relied on to do anyone’s dirty work, and nice people don’t like to hang around with people who at times resemble borderline sociopaths.