Direct action halts coal seam gas rig

Photo: Kate Ausburn

The NSW Nature Conservation Council released the statement below on July 5.

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In a first for NSW, peaceful protesters have this morning stopped a coal seam gas exploration rig in the Pilliga Forest, south of Narrabri. One protester in climbing gear is suspended high above the ground at the top of a 25 metre rig at an Eastern Star Gas operation, with another group of protesters on site.

Local groups Friends of the Pilliga and the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, and Newcastle-based Rising Tide are conducting the action to highlight the environmental costs of Eastern Star’s proposed 1100 gas well project in the Pilliga Forest.

“This is not an action we undertake lightly,” said Coonabarabran resident and Friends of the Pilliga spokesperson Jane Judd. “The Pilliga Forest is the southern recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin and one of eastern Australia’s most important natural areas.”

“Eastern Star Gas are drilling through the Great Artesian Basin to coal seams underneath and extracting vast quantities of toxic water. This poses a risk to our most important aquifer which our inland communities depend on” she said.

“Eastern Star Gas has been quietly causing damage to the bush here for years. Now they want to turn the whole place into a giant gasfield. The people in the cities need to know how precious the Pilliga is,” said Carmel Flint, spokesperson for the Northern Inland Council for the Environment.

“This project will destroy habitat for nationally threatened species such as the Pilliga Mouse, South-eastern Long-eared Bat and Regent Honeyeater” she said.

The project also involves gas pipelines to Wellington and to Newcastle, and the construction of an export terminal at Newcastle’s Kooragang Island. There has been increasing opposition to the pipelines in Mullalley, Willalla and the Upper Hunter.

“This is the biggest proposed CSG project in NSW, and the 600 kilometres of pipelines will open up large parts of the state to coal seam gas development,” said Warrick Jordan, spokesperson for Rising Tide.

“The environmental impacts of this project on bushland, threatened species, and water expose the fact that this is not a clean, green development. Eastern Star’s project will damage a nationally-significant ecosystem and entrench an industry that the people of New South Wales have every right to be worried about” he said.