Resistance grows to Santos' gas project in the Pilliga, despite IPC ruling

October 9, 2020
Sydney Knitting Nannas in August. Photo: Pip Hinman

More than 160 participants took part in a Save Narrabri Virtual Rally on October 5 in response to the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission's (IPC) recommendation that Santos’s Narrabri gas project be given the go-ahead. 

The forum, initiated by Fridays 4 Future Online, was addressed by people representing networks of activists who oppose the federal government’s push for gas.

School strike for climate (SS4C) activist Will Potter, from the land of the Gundagurra and Dharug people said the aim was to unite groups taking action against gas projects in the Narrabri and across the country.

Aunty Louise, a Gomeroi elder, gave greetings from Aunty Polly Cutmore, another outspoken Moree Aboriginal elder and Native Title Applicant for the Gomeroi Nation. Cutmore gathered 15,000 signatures on an online petition against Santos’ industrial scale gas project.

SS4C activist Chiara Leabon spoke about how 630 actions were organised against gas on September 25. She said the Santos project had been rejected by the community because it was a “huge risk” to the recharge area for the Great Artesian Basin.

Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck, from the North-West Alliance and Lock the Gate, recalled when Santos for was forced to withdraw its Narrabri to Wellington pipeline in 2012. “Progress on APA’s proposed Western Slopes Pipeline has been halted for the last three years due to a coordinated effort by a large number of farmers,” she said. The North-West Alliance is now initiating a campaign to get Energy Australia to remove its 20% investment in the project.

NSW Greens MLC Cate Faerhman said that while gas production could be two years away, given the strict conditions placed on the project, the campaign could not stop.

Louise Somerville, Knitting Nannas spokesperson, said while they were not surprised at the IPC’s decision, they were not going to stop protesting. “We take heart because all of the times we have won, has been after projects have been approved. Viva la Nannalution!”

Jo Dodd from Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action described the Narrabri gas mining project as “intolerable”. “Communities like mine are paying for such decisions. Air pollution is going to cause more deaths.”

Dr Katheleen Wild from Doctors for Environment addressed the lie that gas is “cheap”, noting that the health costs are never on the balance sheet.

Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said his bill to ban coal seam gas still had the support of the Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ Party, and that Labor had also indicated support for it.

Louise Newey, from the Stop Adani campaign groups, reflected on the campaign, now in its 10th year. Initiated by Traditional Owners, the movement has now grown into 100 local groups across Australia and 80 companies have publicly severed ties with Adani.

“We can slow the [Santos] project down by focusing on the reputational risk to companies working with Santos until they walk away from the project that ... will become a white elephant. Renewables are already producing cheaper energy.”

Australian Parents for Climate Action’s Leanne Brummell spoke about the new push to extract gas from the Surat Basin in central north Queensland. She said Santos has a petroleum exploration licence there, and that it was also exploring in the Northern Territory.

Julie Lyford, a former mayor and co-founder of Groundswell Gloucester recounted how the community had won the fight against AGL’s gas. “The government knows it is wrong, the science shows it can’t win.”

Susie Crick, president of the Surfrider Foundation’s South Coast branch, said that gas is driving the plastics industry and its associated waste, much of which ends up in the ocean. A lot of plastic is made from natural gas feedstock, she said, adding “we want to stop it being dumped by captains of industry”.

Coral Wynter from Water for Rivers motivated supporting the Gomeroi people taking a stand against gas with coordinated action to amplify the pressure on government. “We should follow the lead of the school strikers and organise photoshoot actions on street corners, MPs offices and town halls.”

Dylan Green, representing the Illawarra Climate Justice Alliance, spoke about the struggle against NSW’s first liquefied natural gas import terminal at Port Kembla and relayed the group’s support for the campaign against Santos gas.

[Stop Coal Seam Gas Sydney is hosting an online forum Save the Pilliga from Coal Seam Gas on October 28.]

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