FRIENDS of the Earth environmental campaigner Drew Hutton left police detention this morning after being arrested and charged for protesting against the coal seam gas industry on a property near Tara in southwest Queensland.
Mr Hutton had been charged with the "obstruction of a petroleum authority holder" and appeared in the Chinchilla Magistrates Court today.
On Monday, protesters formed a human barricade in an attempt to prevent the Queensland Gas Company (QGC) from building a 16-kilometre pipeline to take coal seam gas from five wells on the estate to the nearby Kenya gas processing plant.
Mr Hutton was kept in detention overnight and appeared in the Chinchilla Magistrate's Court this morning where the magistrate removed what Mr Hutton called “onerous” bail conditions placed on him.
"These bail conditions given to protesters are an attempt by the police to take key campaign organisers out of action," Mr Hutton said.
"In that, the police are working hand-in-hand with the company."
QGC made the initial complaint against the protest that was taking place on private property with the landowner's permission. The complaint was made under S805 of the act governing gas activities and can involve penalties up to $50,000.
Mr Hutton predicted landowners in the area would now take legal action against QGC on the basis of their "unreasonable interference" with the properties.
"The first test of this legislation will come when I go to court in Chinchilla on 13 April," Mr Hutton said.
"I shall be arguing that I was justified in helping to defend the landowner in question from the massive impacts that this industry will have on his health and amenity."
A QGC spokesman said the company had been happy to sit down with people to discuss their concerns.
“We do not believe that the protest is helpful either to us or the protesters themselves – we don’t believe this is the way to resolve anything,” the spokesperson said.
“And in relation to the approvals, the works that we are doing are approved under Queensland legislation. Half of the work that we are doing is on QGC property; the remainder is done on property for which we have entered agreements to access with the landholders, including compensation arrangements.”