Together we can stop Santos Gas! This was the message from the Save the Liverpool Plains gathering at Spring Ridge Country Club on Saturday.
Mining company strategy is to divide and conquer a community. However, Traditional Owners, several Unions, environmentalists, residents and farmers have united against this project. The reason is water, water, water – nothing grows without it.
Nannas from Sydney, the Hunter and Illawarra travelled to Spring Ridge in the heart of the Liverpool Plains prime agricultural land. Trips like this allow us to find out more about what is happening in an area so we can inform our loops (groups), who will in turn inform the public. Here is what we learnt –
- Santos is yet to make a final investment decision on the approved Narrabri Gas Project.
- Currently Santos only has an Exploration Licence over the Liverpool Plains and they still have to survey the route for the Hunter Gas Pipeline to take the gas to the east coast network
- Building this pipeline and other infrastructure will not be viable unless they can get approval to drill for more gas in the Liverpool Plains or in another exploration licence north of Narrabri.
- As part of the exploration process, seismic testing is conducted to understand the gas potential of an area. In late January farmers blockaded a seismic testing rig working in a conservation area for 6 hours. Santos called in police to move the blockade. Seismic testing has stopped for now.
- Santos is pushing ahead with contractors from South Australia attempting to survey the Hunter Gas Pipeline and the company has bought an office in Quirindi.
Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher told The Land in May 2018, “We have no plans to drill wells in the Liverpool Plains.”
“The Narrabri Gas Project is contained. Our plans are simply not to drill in the Liverpool Plains.”
No wonder the farmers are angry!
Mitchum Neave, a Kamilaroi man from Breeza, gave a powerful Welcome to Country. Mitchum was named Gunnedah Citizen of the Year in the 2023 Australia Day Awards in recognition for his long-standing contribution to NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) as well as advocacy and leadership across the Aboriginal and wider Gunnedah shire community. He was eloquent in defence of his country, the water, biodiversity and beauty of the Pilliga and surrounding regions all of which are sacred to the Kamilaroi and Gomeroi.
Julie Lyford was the Chair of Groundswell Gloucester, which successfully campaigned to stop the AGL coal seam gas field as well as an open cut coal mine from going ahead in the Gloucester and Manning Valley catchments. Julie spoke about the social impacts during campaigns. Her group stressed to companies, bureaucrats and politicians – we hold you morally culpable. She advised to expose systematic failures.
Susie Lyall, a farmer from Breeza was part of the group that defeated BHP and Shenhua Watermark coal mine on the Liverpool Plains. Water, sacred sites and koalas were strong campaign points. “Science makes them crumble”, said Susie. She advised the group to send Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, every possible piece of information and to keep strong the victory will come very soon.
John Hamparsum is a Liverpool Plains farmer. He is concerned about the damage to the integrity of the land. He said that “Nature is the best carbon capture so leave it in the ground” and that the gas pipeline is “their artery that will bleed our future generation’s life away”.
Phil Kennedy is a farmer from the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, which took the fight for their valley to the Independent Planning Commission, the NSW Land and Environment Court, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court of Australia. They were represented in court by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) and they finally won.
Adam Macrae is a teacher and farmer from Coonamble, located to the west of the Pilliga Forest. Water was the unifying factor for the Coonamble community who rely on the Great Artesian Basin. Santos’ preferred pipeline, the Western Slopes Pipeline went through Adam’s property. The community came together and wrote the Coonamble declaration. The community would only communicate with the pipeline owners APA in public meetings, not on a one to one basis. A WhatsApp group enabled the community to gather quickly wherever APA contractors tried to enter land to conduct a survey. This community won.
Jemilah Hallinan from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has been conducting legal workshops and seminars about coal seam gas for impacted communities for over 10 years. The EDO strives to educate the public about environmental laws and how they can be used to protect the environment. At Spring Ridge they offered 15 minutes of free legal advice to landholders affected by the Hunter Gas Pipeline. They think this battle will be won.
Vanessa Seagrove is the assistant Secretary from Unions NSW. She thanked the people fighting for our food security and understands the importance of the Great Artesian Basin. Many Unions do not agree with the Labor Party’s position on gas. There is not a gas shortage. These Unions have requested a meeting with PM Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek and Linda Burney to tell them not to support the project.
Fiona Simpson is the first female president of the National Farmers Federation. Fiona admitted she was emotional about speaking at this gathering as mining is once again threatening the Liverpool Plains. It is 17 years since her first involvement to stop the BHP Shenhua coal mine. She was part of the 612 day blockade to stop BHP coming onto farmers land. She marched with 8000 people in Sydney in the May Day water rally. Water is critical. She is angry that governments still give companies carte blanche to walk all over farmers. She is angry about how much time she and others have spent fighting these projects but she says we can do it again. She has been to the gasfields in Queensland and in Powder River Basin in the US and seen the damage.
Everyone thanked the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) and Lock the Gate. Without them communities would have been lost. Farmers on the Liverpool Plains also thanked the Gomeroi Nation – unity is critical.
Thanks to Golden Guitar winners Allan Caswell and Luke O’Shea with support from Luke Vasella for keeping our spirits up during the hot afternoon. These musicians have been in solidarity with communities threatened by coal seam gas.
Stopping Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project is core business for Knitting Nannas as coal seam gas was the reason we began. We will join with others to save the Liverpool Plains’ prime agricultural land. If we can stop this here we believe the whole project will not be viable.
Ukraine has shown us how a small community with the support of others can fight with heart for their existence against a big bully with paid workers with no commitment to the cause.
See also Narrabri Gas information & questions for NSW election candidates