A STANDOFF is developing between landowners and surveyors looking to further refine a corridor for a gas pipeline across the Pilliga.
Yesterday afternoon (Monday) near Coonamble police negotiated the release of workers associated with the pipeline’s proponent APA, who were holed up on a private property.
Farmers had formed a human picket line after discovering the APA workers on a private property and blocked their exit.
Landowners were concerned the workers were carrying no documents identifying them and were not carrying the court order outlining the conditions under which they were allowed to operate.
Police, worried farmers might be guilty of deprivation of liberty, suggested the workers be allowed to leave peacfully, to which the farmers agreed.
There were no arrests yesterday, but the stage is set for more showdowns.
At dawn this morning (Tuesday) farmers, who have established an alert system so they can rally together against workers they do not want on their lands, were readying themselves at both Coonamble and Warren to stop anyone gaining access to their farms.
The workers stayed at a hotel overnight in Warren and were heading towards Quambone this morning.
Farmers are tailing them and are prepared to blockade their access to private property.
APA maintains it has transgressed no laws.
The company said in a statement:
“On June 30 APA was granted an Authority to Survey land along the proposed Western Slopes pipeline alignment by the NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities under the provisions of the Pipelines Act 1967. The ATS provides APA and its agents with the ability to enter private land for the purposes of field survey activities in order to ensure APA can fulfil its environmental, cutural heritage and other assessment obligations for the project.
“All survey activities are being undertaken in accordance with the ATS and the Western Slopes pipeline: biosecurity management protocol. Both of these documents are publicly available on the APA website at the following address: https://www.apa.com.au/about-apa/our-projects/western-slopes-pipeline/community-consultative-committee/
”The NSW government granted the ATS after consideration of feedback from a widely advertised period of public consultation. It is effective for the period July 3 2017 to February 4 2019. See https://www.resourcesandenergy.nsw.gov.au/energy-supply-industry/pipelines-electricity-gas-networks/pipelines/authority-to-survey for details.
“In early August 2017, APA commenced a program of field studies along the proposed pipeline alignment that included ecology, soils, indigenous and non-indigenous cultural heritage surveys.
“To date, approximately half of the field studies to support the Project have been undertaken with via voluntary landowner agreements, and the other half undertaken in accordance with the right granted by the ATS.”
At about 9am workers associated with APA were asked to leave Muttama Station by manager Scott Coleman.
Muttama Station is abjout 30km west of Coonamble and 15km east of Quambone.
At noon two APA staffers were in negotiations with Coonamble Police, at Coonamble police station.
While farmers have requested their representatives be in attendance, at this stage that has been denied.
Since 9am there have been no more attempts to access properties.