Farmers react to coal seam gas betrayal

Farmers in the New South Wales north west have reacted with anger to the announcement by the Deputy Premier that some of the state’s most productive farmland will be available to be exploited by Santos for coal seam gas, describing the move as a “betrayal” of the National Party’s rural constituency. 

The State Government’s “Future of Gas” statement, released today, removes the spectre of coal seam gas from large swathes of the North West and significantly restricts gas exploration, however, it also confirms that the Liverpool Plains, and the rich farmlands surrounding Narrabri in the Namoi Valley will have coal seam gas exploration licences renewed in a move that farmers say is set to reignite conflict in the region. 

Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck said farmers were already fighting difficult conditions, and would now have the added damage and stress of industrial gasfields to contend with.

“For more than a decade farmers across North West NSW have been ploughing time and money into defending farms and the region’s water and land resources from the threat of the industrial gasfields. 

“With this gas strategy, John Barilaro has condemned our communities to having to keep on fighting, not just for ourselves, but to safeguard water, soils and the social fabric of rural communities for the next generation.  

“The gas strategy is backing not one but two coal seam gas pipelines, that are fiercely opposed by landholders across hundreds of kilometres of farmland and erodible, fertile soils. We will not lie down and let this industry spread through our districts.

“Future generations of farmers will have to contend with the effects of the climate crisis, which will be worsened by continued expansion of the damaging coal seam gas industry. 

“Local National Party members around Boggabri put forward a successful motion at the National Party Conference in 2019 to have all expired gas leases extinguished, but this decision ignores that motion and leaves those very same members exposed to damaging gasfields.”

Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said, “This announcement and this decision has been cooked up with Santos without community consultation. It is a betrayal of rural New South Wales and communities only just emerging from a record-breaking drought. 

“If the Government had been consistent, we would welcome this. Communities in Coonamble, Gilgandra, Moree and the Upper Hunter are spared from the spectre of coal seam gas, and the decision not to proceed with gas exploitation in the Far West is very welcome.

“Promises to seek alternatives to gas are positive, but the Deputy Premier’s decision to expand coal seam gas on the Liverpool Plains is at odds with New South Wales’ commitment to carbon neutrality and makes the Liverpool Plains and Namoi Valley a sacrifice zone for the double whammy of Santos’s coal seam gas damage and the legacy of climate change.”