Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

A sky-high view of the Liverpool Plains and Pilliga Forest may paint a pretty picture, but it is what’s beneath the surface that is capturing political interest. 

Independent MPs Kylea Tink and Dr Sophie Scamps have completed a fly over tour of the region viewing current and proposed locations for Coal Seam Gas exploration by gas company Santos.

The tour has consolidated my concerns,” said Kylea Tink.

“I was already worried about the impact of a project like this could have on the Pilliga and the Liverpool Plains.”

“The Pilliga is a massive set of lungs for our state, and we don’t have a lot of forest like that left in this country.”

“People don’t genuinely understand what the Pilliga is and how important it is to us.”

Born in Coonabarabran, Tink is no stranger to the region and welcomed the invitation from former New England MP, Tony Windsor, to discuss the concerns of local landholders.

“Travelling through the Piliga you kind of take notice of what is going on.”

“It really brought it home, here is an example of a project that my community [North Sydney] want to be put front and centre” Ms Tink said.

“The farmers on the Liverpool Plains are worried the Pilliga project is the entrance point and once they get a foothold there, that project will bleed out into the Liverpool Plains, and courtesy of the Gas Pipeline, it will run all the way to Newcastle.”

Santos’ Narrabri Project is formally approved for 850 wells in the Pilliga, and they await a decision on the neighbouring land.

Local landholder, Kate Gunn, is calling for urgent action now and for all petroleum licenses in the North West to be extinguished. 

“Santos came close to where I live and did seismic testing, which is a precursor for coal seam gas mining.”

“They know there is gas there.”

“Prior to that surveying they held a community consultation session in Gunnedah in November – the Santos rep I spoke with did confirm Santos’ aspiration is to extract as much coal seam gas as possible from the Liverpool Plains,” Ms Gunn said. 

A lack of representation in the NSW Parliament has Independent MP’s eager to lead the charge ahead of the looming state election.

“The Liverpool Plains is some of the most important farming country to me.”

“You can see how fertile it is, you can see the yield the farmers are generating off that land and those farmers are taking their responsibility seriously.”

“It was fantastic to hear what the farmers are doing, they are talking about their soil and what they are doing to enhance the quality of their soil so they can get a higher yield.”

“And then you must look them in the eye and hear them talk about the impacts if a well goes down, they effectively lose a football field of land, that has to be cleared for security reasons,” Ms Tink said.

“The people I met are incredibly intelligent. They are so well educated; they’ve really done the miles to make sure they know what they are talking about, so to dismiss them as passionate without cause is a real disservice to that community.”

The Liverpool Plains Action Group wants to be heard and wants action now.

“Our beautiful north-west region is faced with a very large threat of Coal Seam Gas development right across the region, which threatens to do a huge amount of damage,” Ms Gunn said.

“We have been reaching out to our State politicians who have not been taking notice of our concerns.”

“Our concerns are real, and we need to have them acknowledged and understood and be incorporated into the decision-making process.”

Farmers from the Darlings Downs made the journey south to share their experience with coal seam gas developments already taking place. 

“They know what they are facing, they can see what is happening in the Darling Downs.”

In the Darling Downs we have bore water that is drying up and land subsidence.”

“For us to see that happening in Queensland and to still consider letting this project go ahead on the Liverpool Plains is just insane,” Ms Tink said.

With a state election 30 days away, there are greater calls for climate action and a voice for robust and transparent conversations on what and how we will protect our environment, and the Independents want to deliver.

We have to ask ourselves: are we prepared for the water that is there under the Pilliga and under the Liverpool Plains to dry up?”

“Are we prepared for that farming land to become less productive?”

“Are we prepared for people to have their hearts ripped out of their properties and for their farming practices to be significantly impacted?”

“We know two of the biggest issues we face as a nation in the next 50 years are water security and food security – there needs to be a much louder discussion.”

“Your voice has been heard, and while I am not your local member, I am a member in parliament who has the capacity to speak freely on the behalf of individuals,” Ms Tink said.

Kylea Tink welcomes the opportunity to sit down with Santos and be informed on both sides of the project.

The New England Times has approached Santos for comment and has received no response.

Top image: L to R: Kylea Tink, Tony Windsor, Mitchum Neaves, Dr Sophie Scamps and Paul Nankivell

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