NSW Government support for Narrabri gasfield a betrayal

Lock the Gate Alliance and north west NSW farmers have today slammed the Planning Department’s decision to label the destructive and polluting Santos Narrabri coal seam gas “approvable."

The decision was made despite the government’s failure to implement the Chief Scientist’s recommendations for managing risks from the industry and shock revelations this week that landholders affected by the gas industry may not be insured for public liability.

The decision is particularly galling because the amount of contaminated salt waste to be dumped at a location that is still unknown as a result of the project appears to have roughly doubled to 840,000 tonnes.

The department’s documents released as part of the recommendation also show about 1,000 hectares of koala habitat may be destroyed for the project.

As well, questions remain over potential contamination of underground water via unknown geological faults, with water experts unable to come to a conclusion concerning the risk.

Narrabri farmer Stuart Murray said, “This toxic project should never have reached the Independent Planning Commission simply because the NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane made 16 recommendations to mitigate the risk of CSG, the government took it on board, made it policy, but has still not implemented it after almost six years.

“Our government has betrayed us.

“We don’t know where that contaminated salt waste is going to go, there is no solution. I am deeply concerned it could end up in our river systems and in our underground water systems.”

North west NSW stock and station agent and beef producer David Chadwick said, “The Liberal National Coalition has been applying immense pressure to have this project up and running against fierce opposition from the local area and broader region.

“The recent defeat of the CSG Moratorium Bill absolutely highlights how the Liberal National Coalition has betrayed rural Australia. That is why the seat of Barwon was lost after 60 years to Roy Butler of the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers Party who went to the last election and stood true to his word, unlike the Nationals.

“It is inconceivable after the last three years of record drought and climate change being at the forefront of everyone’s minds that our government would even contemplate supporting, let alone approving, a project that puts our only secure water supply at risk.

“Santos’ history of fines and breaches at the exploration phase guarantees this will end in disaster.”

Lock the Gate NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said “This entire process has been highly politicised and the people of New South Wales will bear the cost.

"Political slogans about gas prices are contradicted by the department’s own Assessment Report which admits that if gas prices fall by 30 per cent, the project’s economic profile would be a net negative.”

“It is the people of north west NSW that will be hurt most by this. A NSW parliamentary inquiry earlier this year described coal seam gas as “uninsurable” and it has been revealed this week that the largest insurance company in Australia is refusing to offer public liability cover to farmers who have CSG infrastructure on their properties in Queensland.

“We’re appealing to the IPC to ignore the political pressure and demonstrate its independence by refusing approval for this polluting project and safeguarding the people, water, and future of the state’s north west.”

The Planning Department’s recommendation is here.

Information about the IPC's process, and updates from the Commission, will be available here.