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’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.
‘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.’