Law firm comments on Metgasco decision
Prominent law firms exercise particular care when commenting on court judgements, even when the rulings in question involve parties that are or have been clients.
So it was interesting to note this week’s comment by Gilbert & Tobin regarding the findings of Justice Button in the case of Metgasco Limited v Minister for Resources and Energy
In his ruling in the Supreme Court, Justice Button found that Metgasco’s licence to explore for conventional gas near Bentley, in northern NSW, had been unlawfully revoked by the NSW Government
According to G&T, the ruling underlines the “…fundamental rule of law principles and highlights the importance of excluding political considerations from official decision-making”.
G&T also highlights the key point in the judgement – that the existence of a protest action does NOT constitute evidence of a poor consultation process. Metgasco had conducted community consultation in accordance with the strict regulatory requirements, the court determined. The fact that a group of protesters decided to take matters into their own hands did not alter the company entitlement to conduct its properly licensed exploration activities.
Of course, the court ruling does not sit well with the activist community. In typical style, a number of groups have railed against the court ruling, apparently in the belief they have a greater authority to determine the correct interpretation of the law.
Gasfields Free spokesman Aidan Ricketts also disputed the decison, adding that the Government was somehow “hiding behind legislation” and that it should immediately introduce legislation to cancel all exploration licences — and without compensation to licence holders.
Newly elected Greens MP for Ballina Tamara Smith simply called on Metgasco to “pack up and leave” the region. She flagged another showdown like the 2014 Bentley protest over the Metgasco drilling, which was marked by trespass, spiked roads, sabotaged machinery and confrontations with police and road users.
For the sake of the police, residents and farmers in the area, one can only hope activists do not choose to recreate the ugly scenes on display at Bentley.