Local landholders are unhappy Gunnedah Shire Council hasn't taken a definitive stance on coal seam gas (CSG) and have reaffirmed a policy that's more than 10 years old.
Lock the Gate Alliance members took to the Gunnedah council chambers with placards and signs, and members Peter Wills and Helen Strang presented before the meeting began, to try and persuade councillors to consider the formulation of a new dedicated CSG policy.
However, their efforts were in vain as four councillors shot down the motion to consider this, with mayor Jamie Chaffey using his deciding vote to break the tie.
Mr Wills said he was "disappointed" Cr Chaffey didn't want to learn more before making a decision.
"The mayor has not wanted to investigate further the concerns of the community, and not wanted to listen to the concerns of the community any further," he said after the meeting finished.
"He thinks he's got enough of a policy, that it's a bit of a 'wait and see what comes along' attitude. We're not waiting and seeing what's coming along, we've heard the Narrabri Gas Project will affect the Gunnedah-Oxley basin, our water supply."
Fellow alliance member Margaret Fleck said it was a "little frustrating that the council weren't prepared to explore the idea of having a CSG policy, by self-educating a little further, asking for more information and really explore what's happening".
Cr Owen Hasler fought hard for a revised policy, and was backed by Cr David Moses, Cr Colleen Fuller and Cr Ann Luke.
"The fact that we've got a policy does not mean to say that we can't replace it," Cr Hasler said before the vote.
"Policies get reviewed and it's time we review this policy and put into place a policy that has had good consultation with the community and truly reflects what the community is telling us at the time.
"I don't want to wait until it becomes very controversial and we have the sort of debate and community conflict of our neighbouring council area [Narrabri]."
But Cr Chaffey, Cr Murray O'Keefe, Cr John Campbell, and Cr Gae Swain were all in favour of the new motion to reaffirm the 2009 policy. Deputy mayor Rob Hooke was absent.
Cr O'Keefe was the one to suggest this revised motion, adding if the council was to develop a new policy, they would be doing so "against a shadow".
"There's not currently a Narrabri CSG proposal at foot in Gunnedah nor is there currently other conventional or unconventional forms of gas or petroleum developments proposed for our shire," he said.
"We should have a CSG policy, we do have one but we don't limit it to CSG, we extend it to all petroleum exploration."
The council's Resource Development Policy was adopted in 2009, and states the council "seeks to ensure that sound environmental practices exist in all levels of resource development, within the Gunnedah LGA and adjoining LGA's and effective community consultation and awareness is followed in the various development processes in order to achieve balanced and sustainable outcomes that adequately contribute to the local economy and community whilst having regard to the principles of ecologically sustainable development".
A spokesperson said on Thursday the council "reiterates its position that it is supportive of development which meets federal, state and local government requirements".
Ms Fleck said it didn't end there, and they would continue fighting.
"It is such an important issue and we will continue to provide the councillors with information, and landholders will continue to express their concerns with the industry and the imminent restarting of the exploration and appraisal," she told the NVI.
"We can't stop. People have invested so much time, money and effort and learning about it and trying to inform others."