Hundreds of people are expected to take to the streets of Coonamble tomorrow, World Water Day, March 22, to celebrate the declaration of more than one million hectares of the region being declared Gasfield Free.
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 Saturday, will total 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.
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.
“Our water, our farms, our futures and our health are more important that the short term gains that overseas investors might make from spreading gasfields all over this shire.
“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,” Ms Kennedy said.
“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.”
The Gasfield Free declaration process, started by the Lock the Gate Alliance two years ago, is spreading virally to communities around the nation.
National coordinator for Lock the Gate Phil Laird said once a road was declared Gasfield Free by its residents, road signs were erected marking the declaration.
“This participatory process has become necessary because the legal system and governments have failed to protect communities from invasive gas mining,” Mr Laird said.
“We are seeing an unprecedented growth in a social movement that is uniting communities around Australia in opposition to inappropriate coal and gas mining.”
The Coonamble Declaration Day will start at 12 noon (Saturday March 22) with a march down the main street. It will be followed by a community celebration and picnic and the handing of the community declarations to the local mayor. Local MPs have been invited to attend the historic event.
General media inquiries: Jane Hammond (National Media Coordinator) 0403 926 467