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Byron Shire
March 30, 2023

60 farmers blockaded Santos trucks and oppose CSG

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Local communities in the Gunnedah Basin and Liverpool Plains fear the Sub-Artesian Basin and aquifers could be forever polluted if coal seam gas projects go ahead. Photo Margaret Fleck

More than 60 farmers blockaded Santos trucks on Saturday and police were called to a state forest near Gunnedah amid disputes over potential water extraction and fracking. The roads near Gunnedah were blockaded by the community as gas giant Santos continued their seismic testing for coal seam gas despite commitments that these gas resources would not be developed.

Local farmers discussing the impact of CSG on water and their communities. Photo Margaret Fleck

NSW Farmers has warned that farmer blockades of mining trucks will escalate unless real action is taken to resolve land and water use conflict.

Local communities in the Gunnedah Basin and Liverpool Plains fear the Sub-Artesian Basin and aquifers could be forever polluted if coal seam gas projects go ahead, and saw no option but to take action after the NSW government renewed a petroleum exploration licence in the area.

Liverpools Plains farmers have enough to contend with from nature without having to deal with the invasion of coal and other mining. In August 2020, framer John Hamparsum was delighted to be able to take this ‘selfie’ on his farm – the first good crop after the drought.

Out of touch

NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin said this sort of conflict was likely to escalate if decision-makers remained ‘out of touch’ with communities.

‘There is a growing disconnect between the people making these poor decisions about regional communities and those who actually live there,’ Mr Martin said.

Police moving farmers on. Photo Margaret Fleck

Greens MP and spokesperson for coal and gas, Sue Higginson, said ‘Once again the Coalition Government has thrown farmers into conflict with fossil fuel bullies. Coal seam gas (CSG) development on the Liverpool Plains and Gunnedah Basin cannot be allowed to proceed. Agriculture and gas development are not compatible and I call on the Government to support the community over bullies in the fossil fuel industry,

‘I visited with farmers and landholders last month and they were shocked at the plans for seismic testing by Santos and gobsmacked that the Government was backing corporate bully Santos. These communities have already fought over a decade long battle to protect farmlands against fossil fuel development and if Santos and the Government think they can get away with this – they are dead wrong.

Anti-mining protest sign on the Liverpool Plains. Photo Lock the Gate.

Extinguish CSG licences

‘The NSW Government needs to rein in Santos now, buy back these exploration licences and extinguish them. The contribution to climate change that these new gas developments would make is a reckless and dangerous mistake. We need a decarbonisation plan in NSW, not new gas,

‘Local councils, industry and individuals are all moving away from gas as public awareness catches up with the science of climate change. The domestic market for gas is shrinking, we do not need new gas. This is all about monetary gain for Santos’ shareholders, which will be very short lived, 

Photo Tree Faerie.

‘We have to stop this short sightedness. Coal seam gas (CSG) development on these critical agricultural lands is bad land use planning, poses an unacceptable risk to their agricultural capacity and creates conflict, 

‘The brave action by farmers this week to block the seismic testing is a testament to their commitment to protect land and water from Santos’ fossil fuel profiteering. These communities deserve to have the backing of their Government.’

NSW Farmers are calling for an independent Agriculture Commissioner. Photo Margaret Fleck

Independent Agriculture Commissioner

At the last election, NSW Farmers called for an independent Agriculture Commissioner ‘to try and head off these sorts of conflicts, but sadly we’re four years down the track and the conflicts are growing,’ Mr Martin explained. 

Following the 2019 state election, the NSW Government appointed Daryl Quinlivan as Agriculture Commissioner within the Department of Primary Industries. While he had written two reports for the NSW Government, the rising number of transmission and energy installations and ‘state significant projects’ signed off by Ministers were seen by many as proof the planning system was broken. Mr Martin said NSW Farmers members were of the belief that without true independence and resources to call out poor planning decisions or policies, the Agriculture Commissioner would continue to be ineffective.

Local communities in the Gunnedah Basin and Liverpool Plains fear the Sub-Artesian Basin and aquifers could be forever polluted if coal seam gas projects go ahead. Photo Margaret Fleck

‘People are very impressed with Mr Quinlivan’s knowledge when they hear him speak, but his advice must translate to better outcomes,’ Mr Martin said.

‘We are calling for a statutory Agriculture Commission with oversight of productivity, agricultural land use, and natural resource management to urgently get the state’s planning system fit for purpose.

‘An effective planning strategy balancing agricultural production with a growing list of other land uses will not only help prevent the conflict we saw at the weekend, it will be the most important legacy any state government can leave for agriculture and our nation’s food security.’

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  1. Why does the so-called ‘green’ govt in NSW support SANTOS knowing full well that gas mining has compromised arestian water in Qld and will surely do the same in the richest farmland in the nation.
    Wells in the piliga are also problematic. Santos has been ‘gaslighting’ the locals for several years but has not come up with a solution to the water problem.
    Maybe the Federal govt can stop this wantn destruction of the environment.

  2. Dear me, Heroines protesting in tree one day, Farmers protesting on the ground the next day, as they “threaten our way of life”.
    Are our Heroines and Farmers going to be carted away and jailed, like we saw happen to Deanna Violet Coco?

    PS, Hollywood A-lister Ryan Gosling shut down the (whole) Sydney Harbour Bridge – road and pedestrian and the Cahill Expressway for many hours to make movie. Not a peep about road closures “threatening our way of life” from Premier Perrottet which was the complete opposite to Deanna Violet Coco closing one ( out of eight ) road lane for 30 minutes….off to jail you went Deanna Violet Coco.

    • The farmers are protecting land they have paid for. Big difference.
      Ryan Gosling has to follow a bunch of restrictions and can only be there at a scheduled time when traffic diversion measures have been put in place for motorist. Big difference.

  3. total support to the farmers….
    but farming has been mining these plains for a couple of generations. mined nutrients from soils, biodiversity from the bushlands, water from the aquifers and creeks. There’s plenty of room to do things better, and i hope these brave farmers are cleaning up their own practices to keep the land in the land.


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