Metgasco’s “Community Consultative”: a Moment of Hilarity for the Bentley Blockade

I am old enough to have studied Latin in high school. It helps make me a good speller.

 A moment of hilarity

And today, Latin provided a moment of hilarity in battle to bring Metgasco to see reason about gas mining in the Northern Rivers.

The goss now is that Metgasco is encouraging its shareholders to write to the Minister Anthony Roberts and the Office of Coal Seam Gas and say – wait for it – that the community consultation they undertook for the Bentley tight sands gas site was excellent.

I gagged when I heard it.

So I thought I’d better have a look online at Metgasco’s community consultation policies – to give me something to assess them by.

Well, that’s where the Latin came in!

Here is the website at 10:35 am on Thursday 22 May 2014. For posterity.

Metgasco website Thursday 22 May 2014 at 10:35 am

Metgasco website Thursday 22 May 2014 at 10:35 am




I can easily imagine the desperate in-house conversation in the Metgasco office, which would have gone something like this:







Fred, we gotta get some sort of consultation policy online while we’re negotiating with the Minster and the Office of Coal Seam Gas.

You know that stuff. It’s easy to write. Just a few bullet points. Any sort of placeholder will do, Fred.

Just get something up and get it up quickly and make sure it’s got all the usual buzzwords in it. Got that, Fred?

  And Fred (or Freda), bless their heart, did not realise that on a website and a blog you have an option to go public. (Or stay private.)

Metgasco is public with their ungrammatical “Community Consultative” Latin page.

Here’s what it says in Latin.


Community Consultative

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Nam euismod, arcu a accumsan malesuada, sem mauris vestibulum libero, sed rutrum mi eros vel augue.

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 And here’s what an on-line translation yielded. My favourite line is this:

I’m a great quiver just, do not worry yeast.



 But the hatred unless, on the fringe of EU is at times in the is various cancer cells? Learn some Tips for the same protein drink. Each and just now. Korea’s beef, whether the scenario is immigration processing! So sometimes it’s the tips on how to decorate the likelihood of protein is an important investment.

 Americans spent to improve the park fun and exciting. Technology that your kids for their vehicle, the vehicles targeted options.

 Anyone want a lot of research and a lot of travel attitude. Here’s arrows, for the time is to be proud of.

 No soft or scientific sense, window glass for computer troubleshooting is free at the company. It’s a crime, either at the time. Now the financing of the United States or mattis. Phasellus sometimes variable region this dynamic. Important source of data elements to create the magic of free software financing.

 For more, player-oriented styling, a lot of drugs manufacturing department, but to help my team or organization.

 It’s chocolate, the mass of the football a lot of protein, my dear, unless the element of the Internet, which of the players Bureau to the righteous, It’s OK. Developers across the various equity and real estate is the seller. I’m a great quiver just, do not worry yeast. It’s modern, but it was effective employee. It’s the United States, the just, the kids that time had been when, easy of a bonus.


If this is what Metgasco want us to read about their community consultation policy, that’s fine with me because it accords perfectly with that we’ve experienced in this region. That it’s incomprehensible.

I live only 40 kilometres from the proposed Bentley gas well.

I am here, on my half-acre property — just up the road. Waiting.

Nobody knocked on my door, nobody rang, emailed or asked my opinion in any form.

And I get lots of mail and the local post office is very reliable.

I get lots of phone calls and emails.

All my communication systems are working fine. Metgasco: the problem of non-communication must be at your end.


  • Am I not a “stakeholder?”

  • Not living close enough?

  • Not likely to be affected?

  • Not seeking influence?

  • Not caring about my health and that of my community?

  • Not one of the “usual suspects”?

Until this morning, I thought Metgasco’s community consultation policy did not exist.

Now I know it does exist.

But it’s in Latin.

I think I’ll keep my gate locked, just in case.

While I wait for the English version of Metgasco’s “Community Consultative”, whatever that is….

And while I wait for the phone to ring.

UPDATE 5:14 pm May 22nd:

Fred or Freda are on the job at Metgasco.

A neighbour emails that “Community Consultative” (in Latin) has been removed from the Metgasco website.

In its place, a long, self justifying letter from the Chair about how great the community consultation has been and how it’s even better than the State Government’s community consultation. Eek!

I searched for the Metgasco Community Relations Policy while I was at it. It’s half a page of bullet points!

These folks need help!

Meanwhile, the rest of us must go gently.












The Bentley Blockade: Weeping for the Earth

The text!


It would have looked better if I were digging out the composting toilet or planting organic veggies. But the truth is I was half-way into an egg and sausage McMuffin in Casino when the text came from Bentley.


I had to ring Yollana to make sure I had it right.


We’d won at Bentley.


Or at least, a major victory had occurred. (I’m too old for complete acceptance that “all is now well.” The Bentley Blockade had succeeded. Metgasco’s license was suspended and they were referred to ICAC.


But, you know, your body speaks its mind and in a second I was weeping.


I was weeping in Maccas in Casino.


It took me a while before I realised how much I love this country. How much I love this Earth. Since I migrated to Australia in 1968, I’ve had a few `falling-in-love-with-the-Earth” moments. Deep Ecology rituals specialise in helping that response emerge in reluctant humans.


Tall Tree Country


Nevertheless, having grown up

in “tall tree country” in Canada, I spent a long time coming to love this part of our Earth. It’s not what I was used to.


Tall Tree Country

Tall Tree Country






A year living alone in the bush at Humpty Doo helped a lot and generated a PhD thesis on caring for Nature:




Humpty Doo 1992

Humpty Doo 1992








And fog in the valley in Nimbin can do it.



But this weeping in Maccas?


Something else altogether.


  • Weeping for gratitude to many protectors who braved discomfort and hardship to keep the vigil at Bentley for so many weeks.
  • Gratitude to the canny politicians and wise negotiators who kept seeking a political solution when many thought that was impossible.
  • Blessings on the parents who brought children to the dawn gatherings on the hill when warm beds beckoned.
  • Gratitude to a brave landowner who made his property available to the protectors.
  • Close friends of mine who put their lives on hold to give all they could.


Yollana had another insight into why I was weeping in Maccas.

Community consultation


All of the press reports – and the Bentley Alert text – identified inadequate community consultation as the key factor it the Government’s decision.




Yollana writes me:


Facebook post by David Filipczyk“Ž, Lock the Gate Alliance Inc.

Let it be known and remembered loudly and clearly:

Bentley was won,
Not because a politician stepped in!
Not because of a loop hole in the law!
Not because a dirty industry found a conscience!

The official reason for the cancellation of the drilling license is:

Insufficient community consultation!

In other words,  
Bentley was won because the people stood up, protested and refused to back down!


Does anybody really care about that? Community engagement has been my life’s work. I’ve written eight books about it.


I often feel like a boring old fart. Banging on about community engagement.


Who cares?


Well — yesterday morning — someone cared about community consultation.



enough to keep me banging on for another 25 years.


Go Bentley!




NIMBY psychology at Harvard University February 2013


NIMBY psychology comes to Harvard — from Australia!


February was an exciting month for me. I spent it teaching in the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University and giving lectures and classes at MIT and Tufts University.


It was exceptionally cold for a person who lives in the sub-tropics. A huge blizzard dumped 20 inches of show on Boston days after I arrived.


Harvard in February. Brrr!


The highlight of my month-long visit was a   lunch-time lecture for the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University on 22 February.


I spoke about the relationships between environmental psychology and community resistance to housing density increases to an audience in the iconic Gund Hall, which houses the Graduate School of Design.




Gund Hall, Harvard University




Throughout the Western world and especially in Australia, we are seeing strong initiatives to increase housing density to achieve sustainability initiatives. Paralleling these types of initiatives are concerns about the social impacts of higher density housing, confirmed by a widespread Australian research and a recent visit to Canada. Even in Hong Kong, there are community concerns about housing density increases. Where governments have mandated housing density increases, the results have not always been positive.


The much-lauded CityPlan community engagement process in Vancouver, Canada, resulted in a strong support for housing density in the late 1990s and early years of this century, (with planners believing that they had converted NIMBY to YIMBY (“Yes in My Back Yard”). However, currently a strong community backlash in Vancouver reveals that these gains were short-lived. After tens of millions of dollars spent on community engagement about density increases, residents and others are strongly opposing further housing density increases.


In many Western cities, the early optimism of what community engagement could deliver with respect to housing density increases has faded. The irony is that success in this arena is much more important that it was in earlier decades as the pressures of Peak Oil and climate change begin to be felt more powerfully by communities and governments.


So, if density increases are needed and resistance is increasing, what is the answer? What really is at the core of peoples’ concerns? Which approaches might work to engage communities with the issues of housing density?


What if we could achieve our sustainability and housing density goals without causing community unrest, dissatisfaction – even uproar?


Could communities respond positively to density increases under the appropriate conditions?


I believe that all of that is possible. But we must understand more about the psychology of housing to be effective.


We need to appreciate why governments must continue to campaign for increased housing density. It’s as though these two initiatives are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Yet they are connected by the very concerns that seem to place proponents of density increases at loggerheads with community members.




The issue that unites them is caring. Governments who care about the future of communities are alert to the many signs that automobile dependence and urban sprawl are expensive and ecologically unsustainable artefacts of a bygone era. We can no longer afford low-density suburbs. (Actually, we never could but we thought we could.)


Similarly, community members who care about the future of their communities are concerned that clumsy and ill-considered initiatives will make neighbourhoods unliveable cauldrons of noise, traffic congestion, parking problems. They will have no environmental quality. Some even say: `the slums of the future’.

So, if everyone cares, where’s the problem and what is the secret?


A key to understanding these conflicts (occurring in our communities today) is to understand more about housing. It’s not merely `product’, as some developers say. It’s more than a `commodity’ as economists would say. For some, it’s everything: a haven, a nest, protection, security”¦ many qualities that have little or nothing to do with density, tenure or whether one’s name is on the mortgage document”¦


Home is a deeply archetypal concept. Humans aer animals and, like other animals, we are hard-wired to protect our territory, the “territorial core” of our home. It’s complicated and that’s partly why people’s responses to a threat to their housing often get so very `complicated’. Our Homing Instinct is a deep-seated desire to protect what is personal, precious and `home’.


The psychology of place and housing



Here’s a link to the Harvard lecture and the PowerPoint presentation:


Social planning was having a good month!   The lecture was also picked up by the real estate blog, The Fifth Estate: Our Planet, Our Real Estate:


Here’s the lecture in a Word document:


Sarkissian Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies lecture 22 February 2013_revised for web


Many sincere thanks to Eric Belsky and his colleagues of the Joint Center for generous support and hospitality and to Professor Ann Forsyth of the GSD.


Emotions Count in Community Engagement

Emotions Count 2013












There’s lots of discussion about emotion in community engagement these days.


Maybe that’s because we’ve ignored this important component for decades.


Adelaide’s independent newspaper, InDaily, recommends, following an interview with me last week, that we “consider emotion in community engagement.”


The difficulty is that in many community engagement circles, and especially among those practitioners in the “risk-aversion” category (and their colleagues and clients), emotion is seen as a negative thing, often associated with “outrage” and something to be avoided.


But emotion is not always outrage. Or outrageous. Sometimes it’s soft and sweet. Sometimes it’s passionate and daring. Sometimes it’s hopeful.


And sometimes it’s untrusting.


Emotion is only energy.


It’s natural and instinctive, like the human desire for territorial control. And if you find energy in a community engagement context, you don’t have to drum it up.

You have something — something energetic — to work with!   Emotions count in community engagement




The Energy Wheel


In my work, I use a diagnostic tool called the “Energy Wheel” to assess the emotional state of people in a community, a community group or an organisation.   It gives me a way of working out what’s necessary. What might work.   In a “cool negative”   community, for example, you might have literally   to”light a fire” under people to get them going — to get them involved.


Stories in a Park in Eagleby, Queensland


We’ve done that in a now-famous project in Eagleby in southeastern Queensland. And the results were transformational!


Here is a summary of some aspects of that creative approach to community engagement and community development:

Stories in a Park final journal article 2005   Please email me for more details about the Eagleby project.


The Energy Wheel




















You can read more about the Energy Wheel in my book, Kitchen Table Sustainability.



Helping Sally at dinner: what to do at the dinner table when sustainability comes up?

Hispanic family eating at the dinner table

Old friends having dinner and reminiscing in the comfort of Sally’s spacious home.

We’re talking about the environmental crisis facing the Earth, and my concerns about flying across the Pacific Ocean from Australia for my teaching job in Vancouver.

I’m certainly worried about the environmental impacts of all that travel and yet I really want to make a difference. Teaching in Vancouver and lecturing in North America, Hawaii and Europe are all ways I feel I can make a difference to the way we build sustainable communities.

Sally, our hostess, comes to the table with a tray of steaming vegetables.

She puts down her tray and addresses the whole of the dinner party in a high-pitched tone that indicates she’s agitated.

“I can’t understand what all this is about. How do they even know that planting all those trees is going to make a difference? How can we trust that the tree planting services that you’re talking about where you put your carbon or whatever you call it – really do plant trees anyway? Maybe they just take the money and run away!”


After she returns to the kitchen and then she comes back with the lamb, I say, “I’ve found somebody I trust and my carbon offsets are going to the organisation in Brisbane that trains environmental activists.


The woman who co-runs the organisation, Samantha LaRocca, worked in my office, lives on the smell of an oily rag, and would never do anything unethical. I am positive of that. So, Sally, if you want to do something about all that traveling back and forth to Europe with your grandchildren, why don’t you investigate and try to find an organisation that you trust that you can make your contributions to?”


“I just don’t trust anybody,” Sally calls back from the kitchen where she’s tackling the gravy. “It’s all too hard and anyway, I’m not really convinced about any of this global climate change stuff.


Is the mint sauce on the table?”


I’d be interested to hear if others of you have experiences like this when “sustainability” comes up at the dinner table.


What to say?


What to do?


How not to be rude and keep true to your values”¦?


When I discussed this with Steph Vajda, my co-author of “Kitchen Table Sustainability”, he reminded me that sustainability’s complexity and scope pose an unprecedented challenge and it touches all aspects of our lives.


What to do at the dinner table when sustainability comes up?

The Radio Hashbrown Blog

Radio Hashbrown Blog copy


Community pressure resulted in the closure of the antecedent of the Radio Hashbrown Blog.


However, the archives remain.


To read them, click here:


Kitchen Table Sustainability launched at Bond University

9 December 2008

Successful book launch at Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, 3 December 2008



I love the new building of the Mirvac School of Sustainable Development at Bond University.

It reminds me of the concept of “eco-revelatory design” made popular by a great new book by Randy Hester, Design for Ecological Democracy (2006).

All of the building’s many innovative sustainability features are easily recognisable, with signs everywhere to explain the features of the building and landscaping.

The only problem is that it’s hard to find the front door. Ecological design sometimes trumps social design”¦

                        Introducing the book’s other authors”¦


We had no problem finding the front door when we launched our new book, Kitchen Table Sustainability, in the courtyard of the new building on a balmy December evening last year.


The event was graciously organised by my friend, Danny O’Hare, Associate Professor of Urban Planning, Mirvac School of Sustainable Development.


Professor George Earl, Dean of the Faculty of Business, Technology and Sustainable Development at Bond University and formerly Head of the School of Sustainable Development, officiated after Danny welcomed about fifty guests.


I spoke briefly about the new book and the challenges we face in my capacity as an Adjunct Professor in the School. We had a lively discussion.


My favourite question came from a knowledgeable source, planner and activist, Brian Feeney, who asked whether it was acceptable for communities to frame their visions without consideration of the Earth’s carrying capacity.


“It’s not,” I replied. “We need to strengthen community capacity about the limits to growth as part of community engagement processes.”


I drew people’s attention to Chapter 5, which discusses community education issues in detail.


A grateful thank-you to Danny and George for an excellent event, great food and wine, and thought-provoking discussion.


Following the launch, as the building’s sensors turned off the lights and ventilation, Karl and I decamped to our favourite waterside cafe for a late dinner.


We were grateful to our colleagues and delighted to see the book coming to life. But we found it hard to leave the topic alone.


Tired and grateful for the hospitality of our hosts, we speculated on the effects of predicted sea-level rise on this beautiful setting as we gazed out at the waterfront housing and tucked into our coffee and desserts.

Rapturous reception at Avid Reader book launch for KTS

After years of drought, Brisbane was treated to a sparkling evening shower on Friday night, December 5th and a rapturous reception for Kitchen Table Sustainability.


Four of our book’s five authors were present at the book launch at popular West End bookstore, Avid Reader.


Cathy Wilkinson flew in from Swedish Lappland, Steph Vajda and Yollana Shore are West End residents. Karl and I drove from Nimbin in New South Wales.

Avid Reader Proprietor Krissy Kneen welcoming guests


Over 100 people crowded into the bookstore to hear Drew Hutton, founder of the Queensland Greens, launch the book with stories of community campaigns to save West End and Brisbane from planning disasters.


Bursts of applause greeted news of the generous and skilled pro bono graphics and public relations support provided to the authors by Jen and Dougal of Jaxzyn and Maureen Mullins and Elaine Hill.


Popular local real estate agent, Leo Tsimpikas, was applauded for his generous support as the landlord for my West End office during challenging times when many community engagement projects were being pursued.


Avid Reader Bookshop proprietor, Krissy Kneen, complimented the authors and Earthscan, the publisher, on the beautiful appearance of the book and encouraged guests to purchase it as a Christmas gift for their friends. Many books were purchased that night.


I welcomed guests, explained everyone’s contributions, including that of co-author Nancy Hofer in Vancouver and thanked many helpers, including her husband, Karl Langheinrich. I explained that Avid Reader had been the “kitchen table” at which many of the ideas in the book had initially been discussed.


Steph then read a passage about the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia and Cathy (embraced by her two small children) read a passage from Chapter 10 entitled, “Your input will be taken on board”. Yollana reminded everyone of the intergenerational aspects of sustainability and engagement and thanked guests for coming to share in the celebrations.


Guests waited to have books signed by the four authors and conversations continued into the evening on the footpath as people lingered to talk about the book, its ideas, sustainability and community. And how refreshing the rain was.


A great night was had by all.


The grateful authors feel blessed by the love of friends and family and the support of a strong activist community.


Co-author Cathy Wilkinson, who travelled from Swedish Lappland for the launch
The authors signing books


Grateful acknowldgement of photos: Angel Kosch

Kitchen Table Sustainability launched in Adelaide 22 November 2008

Reflections on the Adelaide book-signing event, November 2008

When I emigrated to Australia in October, 1968, the second person I met was Hugh Stretton, now widely regarded as one of Australia’s foremost urbanists.

Ideas for Australian Cities

In his kitchen at 61 Tynte Street, North Adelaide, actually at his kitchen table, Hugh was putting the finishing touches to what was to become one of Australian planning’s classic texts: Ideas for Australian Cities (1970).

I remember him pasting an image of an “orphan” on his mock-up of the back cover because, as he explained that six professional publishers had rejected his book.

The Board of the South Australian Housing Trust

My friendship with Hugh continues to this day. We spent many fiery sessions on the Board of the South Australian Housing Trust in the 1970s nutting out housing policy and arguing about women’s shelters and homelessness.

I was the only woman on the Board and its youngest member.

Hugh was the powerful (and to me frightening) Deputy Chair.

They were feisty times, as South Australia grappled with a more enlightened model of social housing that had been proposed by the Trust’s 1936 enabling legislation.

So it was with great delight (and much surprise) that I found myself embracing my dear friend and former sparring partner at the Adelaide Kitchen Table Sustainability book-signing event, generously hosted by my colleagues at Urban and Regional Planning Solutions ( on 20 November 2008.

Hugh had a few criticisms

The first thing Hugh said, after a warm hug, was that he hoped I did not mind if he had a few criticisms of the book.

“It wouldn’t be right, “ I replied. “After all these years of disagreements – and agreements, it’s only fair.”

Hugh went on to launch the book with many anecdotes of our times together.

Population policy

In the book, we’d forgotten to discuss population policy, he complained. I had to agree.

Old Friends, November 2008


The generosity of my Adelaide colleagues, and in particular, Angela Hazebroek, a longtime planning colleague and dear friend, and the blessing of my forty years of friendship with Hugh, now 83, remind me of the importance of connections across the generations.

Our book has been written by representatives of three generations.

A member of another generation – and an eminent scholar– reminds us of what we have forgotten.

Gratitude to my colleagues

What I had not forgotten – and the warm smiles, laughter, and good cheer of clash royale hack 2017 no human verification the URPS book-signing event bore testament to that – is the power of friendship.

And the great blessing of a professional community.

Thank-you, dear Hugh.