THE Great Artesian Basin Protection Group has written to Premier Gladys Berejiklian asking for an inquiry into the merits of a gas pipline proposed to cut across the Pilliga.
APA proposes the Western Slopes pipeline to service Santos coal seam gas wells around Narrabri and link into major east coast pipelines stretching from Victoria to Gladstone, Queensland.
The Pipeline Act (1967) has allowance for such an inquiry to be conducted, but little detail about what conditions must prevail to trigger such an inquiry.
Planning Minister Anthony Roberts has the power to order an inquiry.
The letter to the premier describes what GABPG considers “water wars” and the group has expressed concern about the integrity of the Great Artesian Basin should Santos be allowed to drill through it to gain access to gas reserves below it.
The letter drew attention to three significant landholder meetings in the region that attracted 150, 450 and 500-plus people respectively, saying at each of the meetings an overwhelming majority was against the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the Coonable Local Aboriginal Lands Council has come out against the proposed pipeline, saying it would transgress areas of cultural significance.
Lands Council coordinator BJ Harris said while the council had provided members to help survey areas along the pipeline’s route, they had thus far done very little work. “And just because we’re helping survey the route doesn’t mean we support the project itself,” he said. Another concerned Aboriginal community member, Teresa Trindall, says the project threatens the region’s waterways. She said discoveries on some properties to the north of Coonamble were staggering in their importance.
“We’re talking burial sites, shields – we’ve had to call experts in because this is so big,” she said. The lands around Coonamble traditionally had no permanent Aboriginal settlements, but tribes travelled the waterways and marshes, opportunistically inhabiting areas during times of rain.
The Western Slopes Pipeline is a State Significant Infrastructure project under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.
The APA Group lodged a planning application for the Western Slopes Pipeline in February 2017 and the company is now preparing a detailed Environmental Impact Statement.
Once received, the department will publicly exhibit the EIS and the community will be able to make a submission.
The proponent will then be asked to provide a detailed response to the issues raised in submissions.
The Department will complete a detailed merit assessment of the proposal.