APA have cancelled a community meeting in Coonamble about its plans for a pipeline to the proposed coal seam gas field in the Pilliga forest, due to social media post “promoting organised disruption”.
However, community groups are determined to hold the meeting with or without the company.
APA, who sent a press release out less than 24-hours before the meeting was due to take place, said the meetings purpose was to allow people in the community to find out more about the projects by asking questions of APA and Department of Planning representatives.
“It became apparent this week that social media posts promoting organised disruption to these events for the sole purpose of generating media attention would not allow genuine consultation to take place and could unfairly impact on the normal operations of the meeting,” the APA statement said.
Instead, APA will shortly contact directly affected landowners and stakeholder groups with a special interest in the project to arrange forums along the proposed route early next year.
Althought dismayed by APA’s decision. the Great Artesian Basin Protection Group (GABPG) says the meeting will still proceed at Coonamble Bowling Club from 1pm.
GABPA spokeswomen Angela Hanigan said a large number of landholders and community members were now forced to hold the meeting with out the company’s presence.
“Concerned citizens will still have the opportunity hear from the group’s legal counsel and to discuss the APA’s trespass and biosecurity breaches over the last few weeks,” Ms Hanigan said.
“They will also have the opportunity to share their experiences and be better prepared for possible future activities by APA.
“We sincerely hope APA and the Department of Planning and Environment will change their position and attend the meeting.”
APA contractors accused of trespassing
The cancellation of the meeting follows accusations of APA contractors trespassing on a farm near Coonamble last month, which lead to an impromptu protest against coal seam gas.
One witness told The Leader the pair were caught walking on the land by a neighbour, who pulled over.
“Word spread quickly and all of a sudden there were upwards of 70 people there and 30 to 40 cars,” he said.
“There is a big ‘no trespassing’ sign on the gate they would’ve climbed over. And right next to that is a biosecurity sign with the landowner’s number on, which they could have called.
“There was just no regard for the law. It was pretty disappointing but not unexpected.
“I’m not sure how the cops got involved but they were just there to make sure everything was amicable.”
The pair told the group they had a court order to access the land, but left after they failed to reproduce it, the protester said.
The region’s farmers have been on “high alert” ever since APA announced its intention to build a pipeline through the area to connect with the proposed Narrabri Gas Project.