The Narrabri community is frustrated and angered at an apparent unwillingness by representatives of the coal seam gas industry to attend a local forum to discuss the economic impact of CSG on the region.
Business owners and residents say the “no show” by industry body APPEA is typical of the industry’s disregard for local communities.
APPEA has defended its failure to attend the forum by claiming it was not invited to the event, but an email trail obtained by The Leader indicated it was invited.
Locals say the denial supported their belief the industry is unwilling to engage with the community to avoid the “hard questions”.
“It’s typical,” Narrabri resident Stuart Murray said.
The Wildness Society’s Namoi Hodgson said she was “not surprised” APPEA denied it was invited.
“We’ve seen multiple examples of this over many years,” Ms Hodgson said.
The forum was organised by independent think tank, The Australia Institute, who postponed the event twice to give industry representatives more time to provide a speaker and offered to “discuss dates if greater flexibility helps”.
An APPEA spokesperson told The Leader the organisation “has not been invited by TAI to attend and will not be participating”.
Local business owner Ann Loder attended the forum and asked how small businesses that don’t get a contract with Santos survive, particularly when regular customers are spending less due to tough times. She was interested to hear what industry bodies had to say and was disappointed no representatives came to the forum.
“The truth needs to come out, it doesn’t matter if it is for or against [CSG],” Ms Loder said.
“When we get people telling us they haven’t been invited and we know full well they have, it doesn’t do anything to restore our faith in the industry. It makes us doubt the stuff they say is the truth.”
TAI principal adviser Mark Ogge said he contacted APPEA multiple times via phone and email to invite the organisation but received no response.
He said the offer was still on the table.
“It’s a very important issue – these projects are being approved based on the economic claims being made,” Mr Ogge said.
“If those claims don’t stack up, important decisions are being made on incomplete or inaccurate information, which can lead to really bad outcomes.
“We’d be happy to come up again and have the debate – in fact we'll even have the debate in Sydney if it suits APPEA.”
Mr Murray said said he wanted to hear from APPEA, even though he believed he knew what the organisation would say.
“They are really good at pushing one line and getting around hard questions,” Mr Murray said.
Santos was also invited, but declined as the forum would “predate the [Narrabri Gas Project] development application’s publication”.
“Santos plans to publicly display the EIS, as part of the development application, in the coming months,” a Santos spokesperson said.
“This document will contain, as required, a detailed economic assessment for the project.”