More than 250 visitors from across NSW were joined by hundreds of locals to form a giant human sign within Santos’ proposed gasfield area in the Pilliga Forest on Sunday, 12 November.
Held as part of the Spring into the Pilliga action weekend at Pilliga Pottery, the crowd spelt out “NO GAS” in the bed of Bohena Creek - one site that Santos has applied to dump treated coal seam gas (CSG) wastewater.
Concerned residents also staged a mock clean- up of ‘toxic salts waste’ to represent the 430,500 tonne toxic legacy the project would create, if it proceeds.
Local people from Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Narrabri and Mullaley embraced a range of roles during the weekend, with guided tours, birdwatching, workshops and Aboriginal dancing making up the program.
Coonabarabran Residents Against CSG spokesperson, Rosemary Vass, said the weekend was a great opportunity to bring people together to learn about the Pilliga Forest and the threat that CSG poses.
“The main purpose was to bring a wide range of new people to the campaign and invigorate our north west group with a demonstration of how strong our support is in the community and beyond,” Mrs Vass said.
“The human sign photo was a great chance to spell out just how strong the opposition to CSG is and to tell Santos that they don’t have the social licence to proceed with the project.”
Increasing opposition to Santos’ plagued Narrabri Gas Project was made evident earlier in the year, with the release of the Environmental Impact Statement garnering 23,000 submissions to the Planning Department - 98 per cent opposing the project.
Santos must now respond to the questions and scientific objections outlined in the submissions.
“My observation is that the general public has a growing awareness of the major issues and dangers of CSG and opposition to the Narrabri project is building,” Mrs Vass said.
“The number and quality of opposing submissions to the Environmental Impact Statement demonstrated that, and the attendance of new people at the event on the weekend was further evidence of this opposition.”
For Mrs Vass, who was born on the edge of the Pilliga, the push to protect the forest was personal.
“I have known the Pilliga Forest all my life and value it as a special and unique forest with great natural and environmental features,” she said.
“However, perhaps its greatest value lies beneath it, where science has shown it is an important recharge zone for the Great Artesian Basin - the major source for our water in this dry region and beyond.
“We all understand the importance of the catchment area for a river and that it is vital to keep it uncontaminated - so too the Pilliga sandstone is the ‘catchment’ or recharge for the Great Artesian Basin.
“If we contaminate these precious groundwater sources, life in our regions will not be possible for people, native animals, farming and food production.
“It is just plain crazy to industrialise this forest and farmland with CSG mining with what the NSW chief scientist, Mary O’Kane, said in her report to the government, was the inevitability of human error causing spills and contamination to land and water.”
While the Spring into the Pilliga event has wrapped up, the weekend has given a renewed vigour to members of Coonabarabran Residents Against CSG.
“It was exciting and heartening to see and meet wonderful people from all walks of life and backgrounds being prepared to drive long distances to learn and experience the area we value so highly,” Mrs Vass said.
“It was powerful to feel part of a network of like-minded people who were supportive and encouraging and who understood the dangers that the proposed CSG project poses to our water, land, and air.
“Many people expressed similar feelings and valued the opportunity to learn from others and build new friendships.
“There was a feeling of a growing community of people strongly opposed to CSG.”
The message from the Pilliga Forest was clear on Sunday, 12 November, with coal seam gas opponents from across NSW spelling out their concerns during an aerial photoshoot. Photo - supplied.