“We’ll padlock our paddocks”

Farmers vow bitter fight to stop 450km Pilliga gas pipeline


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The Macraes of Coonamble have had their lives thrown up in the air by the proposed Pilliga pipeline. From left, George, 5, Isobel, 7, their father, Adam, with Barney, 8 months, their mother, Row, Audrey, 2, and Oscar, 9, on their farm, "Tyrone".

The Macraes of Coonamble have had their lives thrown up in the air by the proposed Pilliga pipeline. From left, George, 5, Isobel, 7, their father, Adam, with Barney, 8 months, their mother, Row, Audrey, 2, and Oscar, 9, on their farm, "Tyrone".

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Farmers claim they'll be ruined by gas pipeline project through paddocks, prime farm land

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With little rain this year, the Macraes, “Tyrone”, Coonamble, didn’t want more stress - a major gas pipeline running through their paddocks.

Adam Macrae,  a part-time agriculture teacher, was finally getting ahead on the farm and making it profitable. He’s planted chickpeas and has started a feedlot. The farm has been in his family for almost six generations and now he and his wife, Row, have five little Macraes to feed and to consider a life continuing the farming tradition on “Tyrone”.

He’s cared for the land, no tilling and completing conservation work along where the farm hits the Castlereagh River. He fears for the future of river’s 300-year-old river gums. 

But when he received  a letter from the company building the pipeline, he was gutted.

Although it has been on the drawing board for some time, a letter confirming the project was a massive reality hit. Already, Coonamble had said “no” - about  95 per cent of people surveyed in the area are against the pipeline and coal seam gas. 

“I’ve just really got the farm to the stage where we can stand alone as a business,” he said. “My great grandfather came up here, so we’ve been here four or five generations. It’s just unbelievable that someone can just come along and try and ruin that tradition. But we won’t be co-operating with such a project that is detrimental to the environment and communities. We know the pipeline is just a Trojan horse and that the coal seam gas (CSG) wells will follow.

“The permanent impact to your operations from CSG mining is alarming.”

Mr Macrae warned APA of trespass laws after he received an email and a letter a few months ago that they wanted to survey a possible path for the Pilliga pipeline across his property. “I just told them not to come here.” Mr Macrae says he will padlock all his farm gates to prevent any APA vehicles coming on to Tyrone. “We have enough social backing to block it.” 

He’s disappointed in the Nationals and says the party has not done enough to protect farmers’ property rights in this case. “I’ve always been a Nationals voter, but on this issue we feel abandoned,” he said.

He says “Tyrone” is prone to large flooding events and the pipeline is planned to be built on highly moveable vertisol black soils, which can crack up so much in summer you can drop a full crowbar into it. He said there was extreme danger from disturbance or rupture of the pipe.The easement planned on his property will be permanently placed on his title. The Macraes believe the pipeline will ruin their income and force them to sell, but fear because it is a small farm, they may not get a buyer.

Helicopter surveying for a major gas pipeline that passes by and sometimes cuts through some of the nation’s most famous sheep and cotton farms and three inland river systems started this week.

Where the western slopes Pilliga gas pipeline will run.

Where the western slopes Pilliga gas pipeline will run.

The 450 kilometre pipeline connecting the Santos gas project in the Pilliga to the main Moomba pipeline at Booberoi is causing concern among landholders affected by the proposed route.

Already, Warren Council has voted unanimously not to support the pipeline construction or any alternative gas exploration in the Warren shire.

Warren mayor, Rex Wilson, said if push came to shove with the state government on the pipeline, the shire  “will not co-operate” and will use every means to delay the project. Some farmers have vowed to padlock their farm gates to stop construction vehicles.

The pipeline is seen as crucial to the Santos project in the Pilliga, which hopes to supply enough gas for 500,000 homes and 15,000 businesses. It is being built by the APA Group on behalf of a Santos subsidiary. The project is up to the environmental impact statement stage after APA started negotiations with landholders and affected councils.

The Land can reveal a community consultative committee (CCC) will be announced next week for the project.

George and Brian Hanigan and Anne Kennedy at the Bunglegully bore at Coonamble which they fear could be polluted by gas exploration in the area that may follow the pipeline.

George and Brian Hanigan and Anne Kennedy at the Bunglegully bore at Coonamble which they fear could be polluted by gas exploration in the area that may follow the pipeline.

Meantime,  at Coonamble, the Hanigans, on “Benah”,  the pipeline crosses through the middle of seven paddocks, a seven kilometre slice through their property. They also fear any rupture in the pipe will ruin the water they share with neighbours from the Bunglegully bore, which services about 40,000 hectares in the area. The Hanigans were shocked yesterday when a request for APA not to do a helicopter survey over “Benah” was ignored. The Hanigans have calving Angus heifers and Stock Horses on the property.   

“It was low enough we could hear and see them very clearly. My wife ran out and said ‘what the hell is that’. They totally ignored my request not to fly over ‘Benah’.”  Mr Hanigan said the pipeline was a “devastating” project to their farm, “but we will be fighting them to the death”. He reckons they could do the whole Pilliga pipeline on stock routes rather than on private land. He said it was more commercially viable for them to go through private land.

Rosalie and Simon Hunt fear they may have to de-stock 10,000 sheep from their property, “Euroa”, near Nevertire, if the Pilliga pipeline goes ahead.

Mr Hunt has been told the construction phase will require him to empty as many as 10 paddocks while the pipeline is built. He said he may have to sell the sheep, whose bloodline runs almost 120 years on the property.

He said when he asked the APA representative why they couldn’t run the pipeline through the stock route, he was told “because it may hurt the flora and fauna”.

“My immediate retort was, ‘What about my flora and fauna?’.”

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