Pilliga State forest blockade continues as locals protest Santos CSG

Protests and blockades are continuing near the Pilliga State forest as locals aim to disrupt planned CSG drilling programs by gas giant Santos.

More than 20 community members blocked a crown land road on Friday to prevent Santos from accessing one of its drill rigs in the forest.

The group says it is within their legal right to occupy crown land, claiming the CSG activity being undertaken by Santos will lead to lasting environmental impacts.

President of the NSW Artesian Bore Water Users Association, Anne Kennedy, said the group was concerned about potential impacts to water, Namoi Valley Independent reported.

“We feel we have been backed into a corner by governments refusing to listen to us or to consider the impacts of the potential loss of our groundwater if this gasfield is developed,” Kennedy said.

“Community members are stepping up to protect our groundwater and defend this recharge zone of our precious Great Artesian Basin from CSG industrialisation.”

While Bundella farmer Megan Kuhn says Santos does not have a social licence in to operate in the area.

“Here in North West New South Wales we are currently facing an enormous challenge that we certainly didn’t ask for,” Kuhn said.

“Our communities, our water resources and our farmlands are all threatened by a coal seam gas invasion.

“Santos has no social licence to operate and they are forcing themselves on concerned rural communities.

“We are standing on this road to highlight Santos’ unacceptable behaviour in fencing off our crown roads for their private drilling activities,” she said.

Gomeroi Elder Maureen Sulter was on site on Friday and stated:

“Winangaya dhawun – respect the land”.

“It’s a powerful time out in the Pilliga at the moment, with many people coming together from across the region to protect this place from coal seam gas mining,” Sulter said.

Santos did not respond to questions around this particular protest at the time of publication, but has previously said its work will not affect water resources.

“Following a thorough assessment and analysis of the scientific information provided by Santos, the Commonwealth determined the program will not significantly impact water resources or other Matters of National Environmental Significance,” the company said.

As part of its work in NSW, Santos plans to drill 15 exploration wells in the Pilliga State forest and restart existing pilots that have been shut in since Santos took over Narrabri operations in November 2011.

However, both projects have been at the centre of protests from the local community who claim gas exploration will cause environmental harm.

Last week a cultural heritage camp and workshop was been set up near Ten Mile Dam in the NSW Pilliga State forest in protest of the Santos gasfield development.

Pat Schultz, a spokeswoman for a group of concerned residents said the local community was committed to halting exploration work in the area.

Santos said it will continue to brief the local community around the work being undertaken in NSW.

“We remain committed to transparent communication and ongoing engagement with the community.”

Image: Namoi Valley Independent

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