Protesters gathered outside the Federal Court on April 8 to demand the oil and gas giant Santos withdraw its bid to override Gomeroi’s opposition to a coal seam gas (CSG) plant in the Pilliga Forest in north-west New South Wales. More than 100 climate activists, trade unionists and First Nations representatives attended.
Santos is seeking permission in the Native Title Tribunal (NTT) to push ahead with its controversial CSG project, despite opposition from the area’s Traditional Owners.
Gomeroi have a registered Native Title claim over areas that would be affected by 850 gas wells planned in the Pilliga State Forest. This means that Santos either needs Gomeroi consent, or permission from the NTT to move its gas project ahead. It was the first day the NTT was considering four “Future Acts Determination Applications” lodged by Santos.
The Gomeroi’s response to Santos is believed to be the first in the history of the NTT to argue that a contested project should be rejected due, in part, to the destructive impact that carbon emissions would have on the climate.
The Santos CSG project would release an estimated 127 million tonnes (CO2 equivalent) of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Scientists, farmers and the Gomeroi oppose the gas profit because of its likelihood of polluting the Great Artesian Basin.
Gomeroi representative Raymond “Bubbly” Weatherall told the crowd: “Santos came into our land 8–9 years ago, and we decided to fight their project all the way. Whatever happens in the Tribunal, the fight is not over.
“We will be calling on people to come to our land and oppose Santos all the way. Our fight is part of a huge struggle for renewables and a just transition to a sustainable future.”
Thomas Mayor, national Indigenous office of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), said: “The climate struggle is definitely union business. The MUA is working hard to bring the union movement onside with the Gomeroi people against Santos.”
Mayor said Unions NSW has just adopted a resolution to stand with the Gomeroi people against Santos. “Many other unions are also coming out in support of this fight,” he said.
Michael Wright, acting secretary of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), said: “Fifty-thousand members of the ETU do not support the Santos project. We know the climate is changing, and that fossil fuel-based energy is in the past. We stand at the cusp of a brave new future of wind, solar and batteries. We need a pipeline to the future, not the past.” At least 20 members of the ETU attended the protest, with their flags and banners.
Other speakers included a young Gomeroi woman, a representative from School Strike 4 Climate and Greens MLC David Shoebridge.
[For more information visit www.gomeroingaarr.org.au]