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Retired astronomer halts Santos in the Pilliga

A retired astronomer from Coonabarabran has halted Santos’ clearing in the Pilliga forest in North West New South Wales for the second day running this week by attaching himself to a bulldozer.

76-year-old Malcolm Hartley worked for decades at the Siding Spring Observatory outside Coonabarabran. He discovered eight comets at Siding Spring during the 1980s. The internationally-renowned observatory is under threat from gasfield and other mining development nearby because light pollution will ruin the dark night sky the observatory needs.

Mr Hartley’s actions follow protests yesterday that saw young Coonabarabran mother Nicole Hunter lock herself to Santos’ bulldozer for six hours to stop the preparation of a new coal seam gas drill pad.

Mr Hartley said, “I don’t want to see the industrialisation of the bush and I don’t think our Government is thinking clearly about the damage that Santos will do to this forest and the region.

“I’ve been to the Queensland gasfields. I’ve seen what they want to turn the Pilliga into. I don’t want to see this special place given over to an industrial gasfield, and the wildlife driven out, just because its public land and the Government and Santos think it's expendable.

“If there’s no private owner or leaseholder to lock this gate, then the people of Coonabarabran, who love this forest, will have to do it.

“The chief Scientist recommended an overhaul of the regulation of coal seam gas last month. We’re still waiting for the Government to respond, and yet, here Santos is, clearing the bush and putting down more wells. It’s not right that reform of this industry should come too late to protect the Pilliga and its dark starry skies."

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