MORE than 160 people packed Tamworth’s community centre on Monday night for the first of the region’s four public meetings to discuss the effects of the coal seam gas and mining industries.
While the Gunnedah meeting last night was expected to see a crowd of more than 200 impassioned farmers from the nearby Liverpool Plains, organisers were pleased at the Tamworth turnout.
Tamworth resident Jan Bryan, one of the key supporters behind the local meeting, said it was encouraging to meet so many people from across the city who wanted to work together to protect the region from mining and gas.
The meeting was such a success that interested locals set up a follow-up meeting for Monday, March 11.
Chairman and Maules Creek farmer Phil Laird was encouraged by the audience.
“A sea of hands shot up across the room in support of Tamworth being a coal seam gas-free region in what appeared to be a unanimous vote,” he said.
Three specialists spoke about their experiences with the industries, and their effects on health, the environment and the economy.
Author and guest speaker Sharyn Munro said the huge response at Tamworth showed just how concerned people were about the spread and impacts of the extractive industries.
Mark Ogge of the Australia Institute warned the high Australian dollar was crowding out other industries.
“In question time we heard first-hand from farmers in the wheat industry who are already feeling the impacts of the high Aussie dollar, who are losing jobs and export business,” he said.
Independent member for New England Tony Windsor was expected to attend the Gunnedah meeting, which began last night at 6.30.
The Narrabri meeting will take place tonight before Moree residents attend a public meeting tomorrow.
The public meetings are an initiative of the Northwest Alliance, a collection of more than 30 groups working for the protection of North West NSW land, water and communities from the problems associated with coal seam gas and open-cut coalmining.