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Byron Shire
June 26, 2024

The Narrabri gas field will only speed up climate change so why are Labor pushing it?

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Pilliga farmer Tony Pickard lives next door to the proposed Narrabri gas field. He is pictured in 2017 at the Bohena 4/4L kill zone, a site that has been ‘100 per cent rehabilitated’ from a chemical spill at a nearby well that happened in 2012. Photos Tree Faerie

The International Energy Agency (IEA) made it clear in May last year that coal and gas exploration and new mines need to stop if we are to have any chance of keeping the rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees. So why are Labor continuing to push the Santos Narrabri gas field project in the Pilliga when it is clear that it will accelerate climate change, poison aquifers, and destroy wildlife habitat?

Opening Narrabri gas field will not ease the short-term energy shortage but it will cause lasting environmental harm to the climate, water supplies and wildlife habitat says Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian.

Minister for Resources Madeleine King

‘Minister [for Resources] Madeleine King’s suggestions to fast track the Narrabri gas field will do nothing to solve the immediate energy supply shortfall, and it ignores the obvious need for domestic gas reservation. It also disregards the significant environmental damage that the local community at Narrabri has been seriously concerned about for many years,’ he said. 

Santos plans to sink more than 880 gas wells in the 500,000-hectare Pilliga Forest, the largest remaining temperate woodland in eastern Australia and the largest forest remnant left in the heavily cleared Wheat-Sheep Belt west of Narrabri. The area has recognised wilderness significance, and more than 117,698 hectares meet the criteria for the National Wilderness Inventory.  

According to a report by the Nature Conservation Council titled Icons Under Threat found: 

  • The habitat loss, increase in fragmentation and predation as a result of the gas development is likely to severely impact the Squirrel Glider, Koala and Eastern Pygmy Possum.  
  • Declining woodland birds such as the Diamond Firetail, Hooded Robin and Speckled Warbler will also be impacted, as the Pilliga represents a major refuge area. Migratory species to be impacted include the Regent Honeyeater, Swift Parrot, Great Egret and the Rainbow Bee-eater. 
  • The Pilliga provides habitat for the only known population of the endemic Pilliga Mouse, the largest Koala population in NSW west of the Great Divide (due to the occurrence of some of the Koala’s favourite tree species) and one of only two known Black-striped Wallaby populations in NSW. It is also recognised as the national stronghold for the south-eastern Long-eared Bat.

‘I have invited Minister King to tour the Pilliga with me so she can see firsthand what is at stake,’ Mr Gambian said. 

Knitting Nanna Dominique Jacobs locked on at Santos’ Narrabri gasfield in the Pilliga forest.

‘Fossil fuel companies must not be allowed to profit from this temporary energy crisis by locking in a long-term increase in their emissions.  

‘Santos’s Narrabri gas project threatens water supplies, endangered wildlife and will lock in decades of climate pollution when we need to slashing emissions as fast as possible. 

‘Even the International Energy Agency—hardly a green-left radical outfit—says if governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from this year.

‘Australia has plenty of gas — we just need to prioritise domestic use. Gas as a transition fuel is a myth. We also need to accelerate efforts to get out of gas, because gas is fuelling climate change.’

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  1. I understood that the Pilliga is a recharge zone for the Great Artesian Basin. If this is true then we are asking for trouble, with possible contamination of the GAB. So much of eastern Australia relies on it for good clean water supplies for homes, animals and agriculture.

  2. The whole idea of fracking in the great Pilliga forest has been insanity at its best all along. If Labour intends on holding power they need to very quickly rethink their position on fracking and stop fossil fuels for good.
    Sure there will be a few hiccups with the change over to renewables but nothing compared to an overheated planet that we will all surely get if we don’t act now.

  3. I predicted this only a week or so ago … all the crap about Labor being more environmentally aware and prepared to do something meaningful… ha !
    Business as usual in Australia and screw you and the environment.

    • Well Rosco, how about putting the blame where it lies the coalition lack of any action for a decade and the greens for scuttling the Rudd governments scheme by voting with the Tories. I’m not supporting fracking in the pillaga but the new government is in an energy crisis and renewable energy along with the transmission lines needed will not happen over night.

  4. Who needs FF gas anyway you all are saying ?
    Well, most of the population do – as an interim insurance measure to keep the base-load power on while your shining dream of 100% renewables eventuates.
    [Or especially so, if it doesn’t .]

  5. F***ing up the Piliga will not solve the current energy shortfall.
    Santos want to export it, despite promising Mike Baird that it would all be for ‘domestic NSW use.’
    Put a super tax on gas exports and distribute it to those who cannot afford to pay their energy bills.


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