Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Aidan Ricketts.
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Aidan Ricketts. Scott Harlum

Claims new policy will make region 'gasfield free' premature

THE Northern Rivers will not be gasfield free until the State Government either cancels Metgasco's licence or negotiates a deal to buy it back.

That is the message from Gasfield Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Aidan Ricketts who said he was astounded by a press release issued by the four North Coast Nationals on Thursday.

Don Page, Thomas George, Geoff Provest and Chris Gulaptis released a joint statement headed "new policy provides framework for Gasfield Free Northern Rivers".

Mr Ricketts said as long as Metgasco had a licence to carry out gas exploration and production in the region, the claim by the Nationals was worthless.

"Until there is a clear commitment from this government to cancel, buy back or otherwise withdraw Metgasco's licences then they should not use the name of Gasfield Free Northern Rivers in vain," he said.

"If our local MPs want to wear the clothes of the movement for a Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, they will have to walk the walk, and do it before next March.

"There's nowhere left to hide - either Metgasco agrees to surrender its licenses, or the government cancels them - one way or another, this is what is required."

Energy Minister Anthony Roberts would say only that "the government will be holding discussions with interested titleholders on a case-by-case basis".

Metgasco chief executive officer Peter Henderson said the company would consider surrendering its licence only if there was an offer of fair compensation on the table.

"Metgasco has spent 10 years exploring in the area, established significant gas reserves and spent about $120m in doing so," Mr Henderson said.

"Our exploration licences give us the right and obligation to explore," he said.

"Our shareholders expect their rights to be respected. Furthermore, a number of them are from the local area and believe in the industry for what it can offer the Northern Rivers in terms of energy supplies and jobs.

"We expect the NSW Government to respect our rights and the value we have created. If it no longer wishes to support a gas industry in the Northern Rivers we would be expected to be compensated accordingly."

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