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Byron Shire
October 22, 2021

Are the NSW Planning Department doing their job over CSG?

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Local farmers at anti-Santos demonstration, Pilliga Forest.

A possible connection between the water used by farmers east of the Pilliga State Forest and the proposed Santos Narrabri gas field is being ignored by the NSW Planning Department.

These farmers feel that they have been ‘erased’ from the NSW Planning Department’s assessment of the Santos Narrabri gas field Lock the Gate Alliance said in a press release today.

‘The 15 bores, which connect to the deep water of the Gunnedah Oxley Basin, were referenced in Santos’ original Groundwater Impact Assessment (on page 4-39 and 4-40. Map on page 4/43),’ says the PR.

‘But there is no mention of them in the Planning Department’s assessment of the project.

An area of the Pilliga Forest where a CSG wastewater spill occurred in 2011. Nothing has grown back. Photo David Saunders.

‘What’s more, warnings (P 315) from the Water Expert Panel convened to advise on the project say the crude model used by Santos has “poor predictive capacity in relation to the impact of production of the surrounding impacted water sources,’ meaning these water users may be left high and dry.

‘The Department of Planning’s Water Division has made clear that the model being used by Santos cannot predict impacts on landholder’s bores and has said “limited information about water supply works is available for the Gunnedah-Oxley Basin.

‘Much of the attention of the assessment has so far focused on the productive shallow aquifers of the region which most farmers use – the Namoi Alluvium and the Pilliga Sandstone and the degree to which these will be affected by depressurisation and dewatering deep below.’

Farmers protest against plans for fracking in the Pilliga Forest, NSW. Photo David Lowe

Farmers water supplies at risk

Gunnedah Oxley Basin water user Mal Donaldson has said that the Planning Department has totally overlooked the threat the gasfield posed to his and other nearby farmers’ water supplies.

According to Mr Donaldson there are naturally occurring high levels of methane in one of his bores. He says this indicates a likely connection between the coal seams Santos was targeting, and the basin.

‘I am seriously concerned that should Santos’ destructive gas field go ahead, my water bore will become a gas bore,’ Mr Donaldson said.

‘My father had this bore drilled over nine months in 1953–54, yet the Planning Department behaves like it doesn’t exist.

‘This is an insult to farmers in this region. We exist. Our farms exist and they rely on this water. If the Planning Commission ignores us too, it could have far reaching, negative implications for us.’

Lock the Gate NSW coordinator Georgina Woods urged the Independent Planning Commission to pay particular attention to the plight of the farmers to the east of the Pilliga when it considers Santos’ proposal at the end of the month.

‘After battling an unprecedented drought for years, the Planning Department’s omission is yet another blow for farmers in this district. It is not good enough to let Santos proceed with this gasfield on the basis of closing your eyes and hoping she’ll be right,’ she said.

‘These farmers could lose their water if this gasfield is allowed to go ahead. No one in government so far has stood up for them and made Santos find out what the impact on them will be.

‘The Independent Planning Commission needs to hear what they have to say.’

Get your voice heard

IPC hearings are all going to be virtual for Narrabri, and speaker registrations are now closed, but proceedings will be broadcast on the IPC website, from Monday 20 July to Friday 24 July.

Concerned citizens can still make a written submission until 31 July via: IPCN have your say.

The IPC has said that written comments will carry the same weight as spoken presentations.

Further reading

For more information on the impact of CSG mining in the Pilliga State Forest and surrounding areas see:

Planet Watch: The madness and corruption of unconventional gas

Santos’ Narrabri Gas Project seeks approval for 850 CSG wells in northwest NSW


If you would like to know more about the Narrabri Gas Project, Cloudcatcher Media’s feature documentary Sacrifice Zone is free to view below. The film contains interviews with a large number of experts.











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  1. We are seeing repeated examples on all levels of Government of ignoring scientific reports,(even here in Byron with our shameful Greens-dominated Council.
    What’s scary these days is that they just don’t care anymore or even pretend to.

  2. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s part of a larger plan to get rid of the farmers, thereby possibly extending the gas fields in the future… Time for the govt to act & protect the farmers & all food growing areas as well as our forests… Time to get real …


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