500 people have taken to the streets of Coonamble in north-west NSW today, World Water Day, to celebrate the declaration of more than one million hectares of the region as a 'Gasfield Free' district.
Coonamble is the latest in more than 200 communities, to have so far declared themselves GasField Free in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. In northern NSW alone the area covered by Gasfield Free declarations from today totals nearly 3 million ha.
The process involves local people going house-to-house, street-to-street, asking their neighbours if they want to declare their road and their land Gasfield Free.
The Coonamble community has undertaken this process across the entire 1 million hectares of land in the district and found 96% of people door-knocked want to live 'Gasfield Free'.
Local farmer Anne Kennedy said the Coonamble Declaration was a clear message to the unconventional gas industry that it was not wanted in the region.
“Water is absolutely vital to the future of the district and coal seam gas mining has already contaminated an aquifer in the nearby Pilliga state forest with uranium 20 times the levels considered safe for drinking,” Ms Kennedy said.
“This has happened on our doorstep, to our water and threatens our viability as farmers and as a community. The people of Coonamble and surrounding districts say “No” to coal seam gasfields.
"More than 50 horsemen and women led the march today on horseback, and they have now decided to form a peaceful Gasfield Free 'Light Horse Brigade' to protect our community and our region from a coal seam gas invasion.
“We have conducted extensive community surveys of the people of the Coonamble district over many months, community meetings and cups of tea and as a result have seen more than 95 per cent saying “yes” to declaring their roads and lands Gasfield Free.
“The community is not asking for anything, we are simply declaring our right to determine our own destiny and telling our local representatives that we are prepared to protect our land and our water.
“This is democracy in action. This community is standing up against the big miners and saying we have existing industries, communities and water resources that are worth protecting” Ms Kennedy said.
High resolution photos available for download here.