On Sunday, 22 November, over 20 people from Coonabarabran gathered at Narrabri, along with hundreds of people from across north west NSW, to celebrate remaining ‘Gasfield Free’ for another year and to show their ongoing and unwavering opposition to the Santos Narrabri Gas Project in the Pilliga Forest.
As part of the celebrations, a further nine local communities were declared ‘Gasfield Free’, taking the area in the north west to over 3.2 million hectares. Previous areas include parts of Dandry and Coonabarabran, with more to be declared soon.
Coal seam gas (CSG) opponents in the north- west region are now calling on Santos’ new CEO, Kevin Gallagher, to ditch the Narrabri Gas Project, which they say is risky and controversial and poses unacceptable risks to their farmland, their water resources and their communities.
They also urge Santos to hand back the six expired CSG licences in the area including Coonabarabran, which has been out-of-date since 2011.
Early this year, Santos slashed over $800 million off the value of the project while its foreign project partner, EnergyAustralia, wrote off its 20 per cent stake to zero.
A number of international investment analysts have also either downgraded or written off the Santos Narrabri Gas Project due, in a large part, to widespread community opposition.
Coonabarabran Residents Against Coal Seam Gas (CRAG) spokesperson, Peter Small said the Santos exploration in the Pilliga Forest, just north from Coonabarabran, had a long history of environmental failures and incidents, regulatory delays and community opposition.
“Now, it’s close to worthless, financially,” Mr Small said.
“Today’s event was an opportunity to send a strong message to both Santos and the NSW Government that we completely reject their plans for our region. As a community, we refuse to support the large-scale industrialisation of the landscape in the form of a gasfield here in the north west.
“The reality is that co-existence of gas and agriculture is simply not possible, and we will not stand aside and witness the destruction of our land and our water.
“Our local, community- run door-to-door surveys clearly show that landholders and residents in the north west do not want to live in an industrial gasfield, and Santos has no social licence to operate here. As a community we have rejected this industry and they should respect that.”
Mr Small said the nine additional communities declared “Gasfield Free” span an area of over 200,000 hectares.
“The outcome in these communities mirrors that in the 87 communities across nine Local Government Areas surrounding the Pilliga Forest that have been surveyed to date. These communities have conclusively declared their districts ‘Gasfield Free’, with an average of 96 per cent rejecting plans for gasfields in the north west.
“The event had a celebratory feel and once again reconfirmed the region’s opposition to the coal seam gas industry. Speakers helped to remind attendees why it is so important to voice our united opposition to the Narrabri Gas Project, in an effort to avoid the same outcomes Queensland communities have seen by the development of the coal seam gas industry there.”
Coal seam gas opponents from across the north west gathered at Narrabri to celebrate keeping the region gasfield free for another year.