NARRABRI farmers, and even their horses, joined forces with environmental scientists yesterday in protest against Santos’ plans for two exploration programs in the area.
Their target was the first meeting of the Planning Assessment Commission at the Narrabri Bowing Club as Santos seeks approval for two more coal seam gas exploration drilling programs involving seven CSG wells at Bibblewindi and Dewhurst.
About 100 community members were keen to have their voices heard, with the added support of experts in the fields of health, ecology, hydrogeology and economics.
Outside the club, concerned community members along with three riders on horseback gathered in opposition to the proposals.
“It’s disappointing that coal seam gas operations in the Pilliga have already contaminated groundwater, destroyed soil and polluted the local environment, all before our community was able to have a say,” Narrabri farmer Sara Ciesiolka said.
“I know the odds are stacked against us, as the Planning Assessment Commission approves almost every mining project they assess, but we are going to put our local coal seam gas concerns forward loud and clear,” she said.
“As a mother, I am concerned that our children, the most vulnerable members of our society, are at greatest risk and could be exposed to unacceptable health impacts,” she said.
While the commission hearing continued late into the afternoon Mrs Ciesiolka said she believed nearly all those present were against the mining giant’s plans.
“From what we’ve heard this morning that has been demonstrated very clearly,” she told The Leader.
“People have concerns about potential contamination of aquifers, contamination of air and soil or the potential adverse health impacts.”
Presentations heard at the hearing also outlined scientific and economic concerns and allegations modelling was inadequate and health studies weren’t undertaken.
Ecologist David Milledge said believed Santos consultants were ignoring data on the impacts of the projects.
“It all comes down to the indirect and cumulative impacts of these projects, they just haven’t assessed them. Santos consultants are ignoring our data and there is a lack of detail on the threatened species,” he said.
A spokeswoman from the commission told The Leader the commissioners would “need to take time to consider what was raised at the meeting” and she could not offer a time frame on when a decision would be made.