The approval of the Narrabri Gas Project by the Independent Planning Commission comes as a major disappointment to farmers in NSW.
The project, which proposes the drilling of 850 new gas wells across 95,000 hectares in northern NSW, could pose a direct threat to the water resources relied on in that area for local food and fibre production - making it ominous news for farming communities and consumers alike.
A number of other regions are potentially impacted by this precedent as there are a number of inactive leases, the owners of which have been waiting for this decision.
The project has been approved despite a raft of concerns voiced by farmers and the broader community, which include the potential harm to water, soil and air quality, as well as social and economic concerns both in the immediate and longer term.
NSW Farmers is not opposed to gas, but the location of the Narrabri Gas Project creates an unacceptable risk to the precious water resources of northern NSW.
The many conditions attached to the project are designed to minimise this risk, however do not recognise a simple reality: water sources that are damaged cannot be replenished or replaced.
The possible harm to water resources has been confirmed by the NSW Government's own Independent Water Expert Panel.
The Panel identified the groundwater depressurisation and drawdown of aquifers and changes to surface water flow and quality as a result of discharges will occur as a result of the project.
Then there comes the question of compensation to farmers with CSG infrastructure on or proximate to their land. There is no certainty for farmers around access to public liability insurance if they have CSG operations on their land, and a number of general insurers have indicated that they are not willing to insure farmers facing this situation.
Ultimately, the Narrabri Gas Project is unacceptably risky and short-sighted, both because of the threat it poses to precious water resources and to the future of local food and fibre production.
- Emily Simpson, NSW Farmers Policy Advisor
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