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The Bentley Effect comes to Grafton

The Bentley Effect screens at the Pelican Playhouse, South Grafton on Saturday and Sunday, July 1 and 2; tickets are available from Buckley’s Music, Grafton. Image: R J Poole.
The Bentley Effect is a film that captures and celebrates the ‘Eureka Stockade’ of our time and the social movement that led to it. The documentary was due to screen at the Pelican Playhouse in March this year, but severe weather conditions meant it had to be postponed – now it is screening at the Playhouse on Saturday and Sunday, July 1 and 2. After drilling 50 wells virtually under the radar, the CSG industry arrived unannounced in 2010 to drill an exploratory well in a peaceful farming community in the Northern Rivers. A group of concerned neighbours investigated. Alarm bells rang out across the region as the community’s immune system was triggered. A trickle of environmentalists and local farmers soon grew to a torrent of concerned citizens from all walks of life – and through this unlikely alliance, a broad social movement was born. Following a series of increasingly dramatic blockades, the gas industry threw down the gauntlet, announcing plans to commence drilling on a farmland property in Bentley, a peaceful stretch of country 12 minutes from Lismore. The community’s response has now become the stuff of legend. A cow paddock adjacent to the drill site became home to a highly organised, self-governing tent city – complete with meeting halls, kitchens, cafés, nurseries and toilets, with strict codes of non-violent conduct. Labelled by the government as ‘radical extremists’, these people were not your usual suspects; they were more like an army of conservative, everyday Australians united with communities to protect their land, air and water. Some defiantly locked themselves onto cement fixtures, blocking the way into the site. Each morning they gathered before dawn at ‘Gate A’ to rally and set themselves tasks for the day and to sing the songs that would become protest anthems. High profile musicians gave regular pop-up concerts to the delight of the ‘protectors’. The industry and its political supporters rallied too, with reports of a steadily growing police force with orders to break up the blockade. The stage was set: over 850 riot police with horses were on standby in Sydney, with orders to remove the protectors. Told through the eyes of the protectors over a five-year period, The Bentley Effect documentary forces us to ask the question: What is truly valuable?