For over ten years, the threat of a gasfield in the Pilliga State Forest to the south of Narrabri has hung over our heads. People for the Plains is a local group that first gathered in 2013 to educate ourselves and the broader community about the gasfield threats and I have been part of that group since the start. Santos has owned the gasfield since then and strategically and proactively divided the community in its ruthless efforts to secure social license.

A few months ago the Narrabri Gas Project was recommended for approval by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment. This meant, the project was sent to the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) for them to do a final assessment and make a final decision. The IPC held a consultation process that included 7 days of public hearings.

We all took our opportunity in five minute, or ten minute time slots to put forward our arguments for seeking the project to be rejected. There were over 400 speakers presenting to the panel of Commissioners, the majority were in opposition. We heard some excellent presentations from local Gomeroi mob, farmers and project neighbors, local community people as well as a range of experts and scientists.

It was a fantastic array of the massive range of problems that this gasfield faces and having sat through all the speakers you would be hard pushed to find a good justification to approve the project.

However, the Department of Planning put forward their arguments for why the project should be approved, as did the slick Santos CEO. Then a range of government Departments proposed ways that the project could go ahead, with a bunch of rules and suggestions that we could figure the rest out later.

We are really concerned that the project will be approved on the basis of “adaptive management”, similar to the coal mine approvals in our Namoi Valley that leave a trail of devastation.

The IPC has been directed by the Minister to make its decision by September 4th and it won’t be till that Friday that we really understand how much influence the likes of the federal COVID commission or factions in the NSW Government have.

Logic and science would say it simply cannot be approved.

Our region has suffered through a terrible drought and COVID is biting into us all. But the impacts to climate, water and communities from the Narrabri Gas Project will last for hundreds of years.

Stay up to date on this issue and get involved with your local Lock the Gate group.