Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

The Battle for Avenue Road; It Is Three Years since the Peace of Glenugie Was Shattered by CSG Protests

Newspaper article Daily Examiner (Grafton, Australia)

The Battle for Avenue Road; It Is Three Years since the Peace of Glenugie Was Shattered by CSG Protests

Article excerpt

Byline: Georja Ryan georja.ryan@dailyexaminer.com.au

HIS words escape through a constant flow of tears that stream down his cheeks.

He tells me this is nothing compared to the ocean he cried for 78 days back in 2012.

Like a cocktail of mixed emotions, George Oxenbridge pours his heart out onto the table as he revisits what he calls "absolute hell", and everything that came afterwards.

On this day in 2012, Metgasco rolled into the Avenue Rd site at Glenugie with its trucks and excavator, preparing to drill into the earth to explore the prospect of coal seam gas.

The action was spotted by locals about midday, and it didn't take long before a community emergency meeting was called for 6.30pm that night.

Concerned neighbours and nearby residents made up the first group of 20 to fight on the picket line, which Mr Oxenbridge watched grow over the course of the protest.

"At the emergency meeting one of the locals said -- 'right, I'm, going to get my tent'," he said.

"Then 20 people grew to 200, and now 200 has grown to 2000 with the protests in Bentley," he said.

The next morning, a blockade was formed on the property, 3km from the Grafton Airport, in an attempt to block the driveway. They chanted "our land, our water, our future, no coal seam gas".

The residents' concern was that CSG drilling would contaminate the water supply, devalue their land and ultimately affect their health and businesses.

"By the end of the first day Metgasco had cleaned up all the natural vegetation, drilled a 6m deep well, put in a 200mm steel pipe set in concrete and left a 2x2m, by 1.8m deep gaping hole in the ground," Mr Oxenbridge said.

For the next few months, the pages of The Daily Examiner were drenched in photos and stories from the frontline of one of the biggest environmental protests the Clarence Valley has ever seen.

"It was like a rape of the earth with the constant DONG, DONG, DONG, DONG and the steady roar of generators 24/7," he said.

"On the Thursday night at 10pm, they started an extra air blast drilling which could be heard 5km away.

"It sounded like a jet engine trying to take off.

"And that's when everyone woke up -- literally -- and knew they had to do something about this."

What started as a somewhat peaceful blockade was soon marred by a death threat two weeks in.

One woman then chained herself to a semi-trailer and had to have the bike lock angle-grinded off her neck.

Another protester threatened to shoot a Metgasco worker, crying "there's no way you blokes are gonna get in here. I'll shoot one of you p****s if I have to!"

It is believed the same man then reappeared the next day threatening the workers with a plastic fence block.

"He walked towards the workers holding one of the security fence bases and muttering incoherently under his breath," a Metgasco spokesperson said at the time. …

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