3 Oct 2017

The NSW activists who stopped the frackers

From Afternoons, 1:18 pm on 3 October 2017

When the gas industry tried to stake a claim on small New South Wales community in 2010, the locals fought back. 

Brendan Shoebridge filming at Bentley.

Brendan Shoebridge filming at Bentley. Photo: Supplied / The Bentley Effect

Rallies began, culminating in a blockade in the farming valley of Bentley where protesters faced riot police. It ended when the government stepped in and put a halt on gas fields in the area.

A filmmaker decided his contribution to the movement would be to document the struggles, over six years. It's now been made into a feature-length documentary called "the Bentley Effect".

Brendan Shoebridge is travelling around New Zealand in a campervan showing the documentary and says it’s a good news story that’s connecting with action groups in communities in New Zealand.

“I think it’s a very universal story, there’s so many battles playing out on so many fronts, I think there’s a real thirst for a good news story, something that nourishes us and gives us hope.”

In the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales farmers, landowners, activists, scientists - organised to oppose unconventional gas invasion.

“They woke up this beautiful progressive community and they started digging deep and found out the dirty truth,” Shoebridge says.

Shoebridge a resident of the area went along to the first rally.

“I took my camera and I realised I was getting some valuable info, and there was a massive showdown coming and that’s what happened at Bentley.”

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Photo: Supplied / The Bentley Effect

He says activists are akin to a body’s immune system.

“Activists start to distribute information, the next thing that happens is the grouping up and that was important; people when they come together can do amazing things. And it sort of negates all that power you see when you have a big company on your doorstep.”

His film charts a social movement that arose in response to the threat of fracking.

“We’re brainwashed into thinking all mining is good. What’s becoming painfully clear to us is the government aren’t batting for communities, but these big miners. That’s a heart breaking thing to realise when you’re on the receiving end of that.”

Nevertheless he is buoyed by the reception the film is getting in New Zealand.

“There’s a lot of joy when you find you’re fighting these battles and on the right side of history. These are the moments we need to celebrate. and it’s not as if these battles will go away."