Farmers from Coonamble and Narrabri who have taken part in peaceful protest against coal seam gas in the Pilliga say the Government has misread the public’s anger and opposition to CSG and that they should be passing legislation to protect the Pilliga and the Great Artesian Basin, not whacking farmers and protesters with higher fines.
The Daily Telegraph is reporting this morning that the NSW Government will pass special laws to increase penalties and powers against peaceful mining protests in response to a series of protests against Santos’ CSG water treatment facility in the Pilliga.
Neil Kennedy is a farmer from Coonamble who chained himself to the gates of Santos’ construction site in the Pilliga last month. He says higher fines will only worsen conflict over coal seam gas.
Mr Kennedy said, “If the Government had done its job and protected the Great Artesian Basin from coal seam gas none of us would be having to protest in the Pilliga. We’re talking about the lifeblood of our community: we don’t like having to break the law, but we’re forced into it by a Government that has failed its own people.
“Whacking farmers with higher fines for protesting in defence of our water and our way of life is only going to make people more angry.”
Nicole Hunter, a mother from Coonabarabran locked herself to the gates of Santos’ CSG site in the Pilliga earlier this year said, “The protests and conflict over coal seam gas in the Pilliga are of the Government’s own making.
They’ve known for years that the public opposes coal seam gas in the Pilliga, and the good reasons why, and they have failed to meet the community’s expectation that a place this special will be made off-limits to mining. Of course I was frightened to protest, and don’t want fines, but what price would you put on your children’s health and future?”
Stewart Murray, a farmer from Narrabri said, “Since the Government has utterly failed, we’re grateful to people coming to help us stop this CSG madness. This is a state-wide and nation-wide issue, so why shouldn’t everyone be involved? The Government and Santos don’t get it.
They think this is about money, and that high fines will stop farmers from protesting against coal seam gas. We can’t stop: we have no choice if we want to protect our families and farms.
“If the Government wants to pass new laws to stop mining protests, they should be making a law to make the Pilliga off-limits to coal seam gas.”