Here & Now #142 Pilliga Day

Here & Now 142 picS Sorrensen

The Pilliga. Wednesday, 9.20am

I am a patriotic Australian. (Sure, I despise thongs and bongs, but I have skin cancer scars and say ‘mate’ sometimes.) I love this country: her blue mountains, her rolling plains, her babbling rivers.

Consequently, for Australia Day, I wanted to be with real Aussies. True blue. So I went to The Pilliga, the largest bit of semi-arid scrub left in New South Wales.

On the long drive there from my shack under the North Coast cliffs, I realised I do love this country – even though her blue mountains are logged, her plains are sucked dry and her rivers are bubbling with toxic gases.

It makes me sad. It’s like watching a parent die. And it makes me angry. Because it’s deliberate.

I’m not sucked in by the patronising patriotism of politicians; the manufactured fears of international terrorism; the self-serving warmongering; the cowardly asylum-seeker bashing; or the pompous award-giving. I am a patriot, not a patsy.

I know who the enemy is.

I’m at the gate to Santos’ water treatment plant at Leewood in the northern part of The Pilliga. Santos plans to put 850 coal seam gas wells in The Pilliga.

It’s a really stupid idea.

The Pilliga is one of the most important recharge areas for the Great Artesian Basin.

When the Great Dividing Range was formed, it lifted and exposed the ends of the sandstone aquifers of the Basin. The Pilliga is that rare place where elevated exposed aquifers have formed highly efficient water sinks. The water that falls on the Pilliga scrub goes straight into the Great Artesian Basin.

Because of the elevation of The Pilliga, it pressurises the aquifers causing the springs and wells that feed all the rivers that flow westward-ish into Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia: the Murray-Darling system.

Santos needs to depressurise the system to unlock the gas in the coal seam, which lies about a kilometre beneath The Pilliga. Such lowering of the head of pressure will stop rivers flowing and will collapse agricultural wells.

The extreme water pressure at such depth greatly increases the storage capacity of the coal seam. So, by taking out gigalitres of water, Santos will also unlock hundreds of millions of years of accumulated salts and toxins, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and radioactive particles that reside in these coal seam water filters. That produced water will come here to these gates. Then what happens no-one knows…

The disturbed toxins that remain underground will flow through the fractured layers into the Great Artesian Basin.

Yes, it’s a really stupid idea.

I’m standing at the Santos gate with other Australians who care about this country. There are Knitting Nannas, dreadlocked Greenies, Gamilaraay custodians, concerned grandparents, scientists, shopkeepers, kids, and the biggest collection of Akubra-wearers I have seen outside of a Gympie Muster.

One Akubra-wearing bloke is at the gate now. He’s sitting on a camping chair. He’s taken his hat off for the moment so a huge padlock can be placed around his neck, locking him onto the gate.

His name is Don, he’s 64, a third-generation farmer from the western Pillaga, and he’s had enough of being ‘terrorised by the government for allowing Santos to drill through the Great Artesian Basin’.

Today, I give Don my Brave Australian of the Year award.

And I give my Smart Australian of the Year Award to Ian Sutton. Sitting for an hour or two at his tent at the protesters’ camp down the road, he taught me much about Pilliga hydrology. (To read Ian’s report, email him at [email protected])

Hell, I’m giving an award to every person here. I haven’t got trophies, but I give you love and respect.

Thanks mates.









8 responses to “Here & Now #142 Pilliga Day”

  1. Len Heggarty says:

    Donald Horne: “Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck.”

  2. Eve Jeffery says:

    Thanks S – such a great effort for you to get out to the Pilliga.
    It’s a mammoth effort, but more people need to go out there and see what you have seen.
    People need to get their butts to the Liverpool Plains, they need to scurry down to Gloucester and get thee and they and them to Hopeland in Queensland and hundreds of other towns.
    If people see the destruction and the poison and the desecration of this wide, brown land for themselves, they might think twice about who they vote for…

  3. Serena Ballerina says:

    Am so glad you wrote this. To be enlightened on the real consequences of CSG mining……not the whitewash from Santos or those in government who should be looking after this country!
    We’ve been involved in the protest up in the Tweed.
    Am spreading the word.

  4. marina leontiev says:

    Thank you !!! I hold deep RESPECT for thise australians like Mr Sorrenson who battle to save our great land. Coal Seam Gas drilling is an a Abomination to this country.” How”! , in the face it is to see people and livestock becoming sick & possibly death will be there outcome. OUr important Resource “Water” is forever destroyed. How irresponible of some of our Politicians to continue to turn a blind eye to what damage has already occured through Greed.
    Well done Mr Sorrenson☺

  5. Rasa says:

    Apart from the people employed by Santos… Does anyone out there have a job to go to?

  6. Doctor Wom Bhatt says:

    Yes. Kudos Mr.Sorrenson, both for getting out to the Pilliga and being able to see and understand what sitting parliamentary members of the Labor and Liberal Parties cannot understand about Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining ventures. Destroying preserved and designated State Forest areas is not acceptable, for both social and environmental reasons. Rotating personnel in and out of the Fossil Fuel harvesting industries is not acceptable either. Stop being criminally stupid. Your activities are recorded. Stop any further activity in the Leard and Pilliga State Forests in particular.

  7. Frances says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I was very moved by your honesty and expression of emotions in relaying your entire journey and experience in getting to the Pilliga area and sharing with us, what you were confronted by and also learnt.

    I have great respect for your efforts and thank you for taking the time and sharing with us, what we ALL must CARE and SHARE IN STANDING UP FOR, our NATURAL WATER SOURCE, ECO SYSTEMS, FOOD SUPPORT, ANIMAL PROTECTION, thank you for doing it on behalf of us all.

  8. Frances says:

    By the way Mr Sorrensen…I have shared today your wonderful experience, on the Pilliga Push facebook page, and a good few people are also touched by your story and sharing also…We need an army of us all, to keep connecting and sharing and spreading the positive energy, to turn this toxic tide around for our beautiful mother earth planet our home for all, as we are all ONE. The wonderful up side is we are all connecting, total strangers and reaching out to each other and for each other and our precious home.

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