IF THE people of the Pilliga have their say, there will be no gas pipeline across NSW’s western slopes.
On Saturday they declared theirs a fight to protect the integrity of the Great Artesian Basin and organisers urged them to begin using the online tag #warforwater
Bloodymindedness and economics drives the miners' agenda. Bite the ankles of the elephant until it falls over.- Peter Martin
A gathering of more than 400 people at the Coonamble Bowls Club heard from a panel of people either previously involved in disputes with mining companies, or currently embroiled in the battle of wills shaping up in the shadow of the Warrumbungles. Joe Hill, “Wandaloo”, Miles, Queensland, told the crowd how he had stood firm against the company, to the extent a pipeline transporting coal seam gas was re-routed around his property, creating what is known among his supporters as “Joe’s bend”.
He said national vendor declarations were the key to farmers stopping major infrastructure projects crossing their farms.
He said, given the new biosecurity laws applying to agriculture, he would allow nobody onto his property unless wash-down certificates could be produced.
He said the amount of foreign vehicle movements a pipeline easement would create meant he could no longer be sure his property had not been contaminated.
Mr Hill said NVDs were legally binding and the person who signed them bore all legal responsibility for the livestock’s state of health and controlling that assurance was the farmer’s responsibility. He said if contaminated meat arrived in a foreign marketplace from his farm, traceability meant he would be held to account, but the Australian beef industry would take the big hit, because our beef would be labelled “contaminated”. Former investment banker and chief executive of Rothschild Australia Asset Management, Peter Martin, told the meeting the chances of the entire Narrabri Gas Project and associated infrastructure, including the Pilliga pipeline getting off the ground, were slim.
He questioned the fundamentals of the company’s business model and said even if it could get the numbers to stack up, mining fossil fuels was a sunset industry.
Mr Martin urged the people of the Western Slopes to stick together, use one expert lawyer and all financially contribute to paying that lawyer. In the crowd too was Australian Labor Party NSW MLC Daniel Mookhey, who said he would be reporting back to opposition leader Luke Foley about the meeting. “We have heard the anxiety across the state,” he said, “when you have seventh-generation farmers telling you coal seam gas is the biggest threat to their farms since 1810, you listen.”
Gamilaroi woman Teresa Trindall, also a nurse, said apparent health problems related to unconventional gas mining had been detailed by the Darling Downs Public Health Unit in 2013 and included serious conditions. She said farmers and traditional owners had to stick together to defend the country and its water.
As a result of concerns raised at the meeting, The Land put these questions to APA:
Does APA have comprehensive insurance to cover farmers in the event of contamination of their produce as a result of APA activities and an instance of that produce being identified in an international market?
APA holds comprehensive insurance policies in relation to our activities and these are in addition to the indemnities which would form part of any future easement agreement between APA and landholders.
For how long has APA been aware of much of the pipeline route being in Australia's "anthrax belt" and what specific measures will be taken to minimise risk of the disease being unearthed?
APA’s existing biosecurity protocol was first published in August 2017 and updated in September 2017. The protocol includes a priority disease risk assessment which identifies anthrax as a high-risk disease across the area of the proposed pipeline alignment. The protocol includes measures for managing the risks associated with soil borne diseases including anthrax during the completion of field survey activities. To date APA has consulted with landowners and has not been notified of any known locations of previous outbreaks of anthrax on properties along the alignment.
Has APA suggested to Western Slopes inhabitants there could be a second pipeline built once easements are established?
APA has been asked whether the pipeline easement terms would allow the future duplication of the pipeline. It is correct that the standard easement terms for pipelines in NSW refer to pipelines (plural) and a new easement would not be required if there was a decision in the future to propose duplication of sections of the pipeline.
However, to be clear:
- APA has no plans for duplication.
- APA is not aware of any project which would justify duplication of the pipeline.
This is not dissimilar to other linear infrastructure such as roads, railways and power lines whereby the underlying land tenure allows for duplication of the infrastructure subject to the necessary approvals being obtained.
Is APA prepared to become a default co-signatory to national vendor declarations for animals/crops on properties affected by the pipeline?
APA operates more than 15,000 kilometres of pipelines across the country, mostly in rural/agricultural areas. We have never encountered an issue where a landowner has been unable to fulfill their NVD as a result of our activities.