Community fires up after Feds give Narrabri gasfield the go ahead

The Morrison Government’s approval of the Santos Narrabri gasfield has only strengthened the resolve of local Traditional Owners, farmers, and concerned community members to continue the fight against the destructive project.

The Morrison Government’s approval of the Santos Narrabri gasfield has only strengthened the resolve of local Traditional Owners, farmers, and concerned community members to continue the fight against the destructive project. 

The polluting gasfield received Federal approval today, but those opposed to the project say it will do nothing to hasten its development. 

The gasfield lacks significant local support, with a majority of submissions (Page 20) to the Independent Planning Commission from people living in the immediate Narrabri local government area and the local region objecting to the project. 

Gomeroi Traditional Owner Polly Cutmore said there would continue to be a gathering of Gomeroi people to determine the best strategy to continue fighting the gasfield.

“Scott Morrison doesn’t decide for us, the IPC doesn’t decide for us what happens on our country. We do, not them. These policies and procedures are just to suit white men, not us,” she said.

“This is just another example of attempted, devastating colonialism, only now instead of hiding behind the fence, we’re at the table. We are coordinating. Gomeroi people are coming together, the whole Gomeroi Nation are talking about the destruction of the gas mining, especially to the Great Artesian Basin.

“That’s the number one fight we have - to save the Great Artesian Basin.”

Local farmer Scott McCalman said he and other landholders across the Narrabri district were furious at the Morrison and Berejiklian Governments for supporting the gasfield.

“The debilitating impacts of climate change on food producers in Australia have been felt for at least the past 20 years and are increasing in severity, yet politicians want to blast more emissions into the atmosphere with this polluting gasfield,” he said.

“The methane leakage alone should be an absolute clarion call for both state and federal politicians to pull their heads in and wake up to themselves, let alone the damage this project will do to groundwater.

“We are experiencing daily temperatures way above average, and evaporation rates that are drying our country to the bone.

“It is frankly disgusting that state and federal governments would just write off 23,000 submissions against this destructive gasfield and ignore the science that shows it will threaten our groundwater.

“Sitting National party members both state and federal, such as Mark Coulton and Kevin Anderson, whose electorates cover large portions of the state, have really let down rural constituents by ignoring the catastrophic impacts of climate change and not listening to the will of the people. 

“Adam Marshall in particular is treating us with contempt by hypocritically supporting both the Narrabri gasfield and the removal of the remaining zombie licences. Talk about giving the community lip service - people are ropeable.  

“This project will be so short term - the economics don’t even stack up now.

“We are business people, up against increasingly difficult environmental challenges - we grow amazing produce. The government needs to get on the front foot and look at the world stage where big businesses, banks, and insurance companies are divesting from fossil fuels.

“We need to be innovative and embrace clean, dispatchable energy systems, not become wrapped in the tentacles of gasfields and gas pipelines.

“Rural families and our kids can benefit much more from a modern, clean energy system than they can from a finite, taxpayer subsidised, polluting gasfield.”

Lock the Gate Alliance NSW coordinator Naomi Hogan said the window was closing on gas. Renewable energy will have supplanted it by the time Santos gets around to building its polluting gasfield.

“Santos has said it will be years before the company can start production at Narrabri, and that’s without factoring in the continued, determined opposition from local people who will do everything they can to protect water and stop this gasfield going ahead.

“Renewable energy is the cheapest, most efficient, and cleanest way for people to power their homes and businesses. Gas, particularly expensive and polluting coal seam gas like that at Narrabri is not wanted or needed. 

“This is a political approval, but Santos won’t be able to build this gasfield in the face of ongoing community resistance and they won’t be able to build it without securing the funds. 

“It’s easier to pull the wool over the eyes of politicians than it will be for Santos to convince investors to burn their money on this polluting gasfield.”



Santos still has a number of hoops to jump through, including:

  • Meeting conditions imposed by the IPC, including updating its groundwater modelling and articulating its salt waste disposal plans;

  • Demonstrating the gas under the Pilliga is commercial

  • Securing investment ahead of a Final Investment Decision which is not expected until 2023.

  • Getting the gas to market, which relies on pipeline companies securing landholder access to conduct surveys, government approvals and investment funding. 

Quick facts and figures:

  • Originally proposed by Santos in 2011, the Narrabri Gas Project was formally supported by the NSW Department of Planning in May 2020, despite receiving 22,484 (98%) submissions opposing the project, the largest number of objections ever received by a NSW development.

  • The project involves Santos drilling 850 coal seam gas wells on 1,000 hectares of a 95,000 hectare site that spans across the Pilliga forest - a sacred place for Gomeroi/Gamilaraay people - and nearby grazing land.

  • If built, it is estimated the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by the project could be 127.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

  • The CSG wells would be drilled through a recharge aquifer for the Great Artesian Basin, known as the Pilliga Sandstone.

  • The risk of drawdown and inter-aquifer leakage in the Namoi alluvium is considerable, and likely to be greater than what has currently been modelled by Santos.

  • Santos’ project would be a trojan horse for other unconventional gas projects due to the existence of ‘zombie licences’ covering a huge area of north west NSW from Dubbo to the QLD border. Despite National Party members voting to have these licences permanently cancelled, the NSW Government has failed to act, meaning the licences could be re-activated.

  • In the Pilliga, Santos has already been fined for contaminating an aquifer with uranium and other heavy metals and for a spill of 10,000L of wastewater that caused a forest ‘dead-zone’ which is still un-remediated more than a decade later.

  • Wastewater could produce up to 840,000 tonnes of salty waste with still no known disposal solution. Santos would be required to dispose of this waste within 150km of the project radius.

  • Santos has downplayed the risks of bushfire in the Pilliga forest caused by gas flaring, with local RFS units saying they’ll refuse to send volunteers into the gas field to fight fires if the project goes ahead.