Hunter Gas Pipeline opponents have vowed to ramp up the fight after a company connected to Santos’ land access contractor purchased a 20 hectare farm on the Liverpool Plains and the Planning Department quietly approved the “staged” construction of the pipeline this month.
Last month, community members noticed activity at the 20 ha property at 40 Nicholsons Lagoon Road, Quipolly, after pegs were placed on the ground next to the roadside identifying the area as “Hunter Gas laydown”. The property was sold to Perlubie Property Holdings for $850,000 in April this year (property records available here).
ASIC records show the sole directors of Perlubie are also the sole directors of Land Access & Management Services, which has been employed by Santos to negotiate with property owners over the Hunter Gas Pipeline’s proposed path.
The Planning Department gave approval for the staging of the pipeline to Santos subsidiary Hunter Gas Pipeline PTY LTD earlier this month. The approval allows Santos to construct “laydown yards… to securely store construction equipment, pipe and other materials”.
It is not known whether Santos or its contractors or associated entities have purchased other properties along the pipeline route, however, according to the Hunter Gas Pipeline’s Environmental Assessment, “two construction spreads (laydown facilities) would be in operation... north and south of the Liverpool Ranges”.
Mullaley farmer Margaret Fleck said, “Santos knows there is overwhelming opposition to its Hunter Gas Pipeline route through the Liverpool Plains foodbowl. So rather than negotiate with farmers and landholders, it seems its contractors or associated entities are simply buying up properties where they’re available,” she said.
“Clearly, Santos and its contractors still do not understand just how determined the Liverpool Plains community is to defend Australia’s foodbowl and our properties from destructive coal seam gas and high pressure gas pipelines.
“Santos will never build its Hunter Gas Pipeline, and it will never build its Narrabri Gas Project.”
Under the terms of its project approval, Santos is required to have begun construction on the pipeline by October next year, or the approval will lapse. President of the Hunter Gas Landholder Rights Alliance Inc Mick Fetch said Santos’ “stageing application” was an underhanded way for the company to claim construction had begun.
“Nearly all landholders in the Hunter Valley along the pipeline route are opposed to this destructive project,” he said.
“Landholders are not talking to Santos, so we see the staging and purchase of property as a knee jerk reaction to the deadline that’s approaching.
“Santos is getting desperate and that’s why it has requested this staging. This project has hung over our heads long enough, and unfortunately with a staging process it looks set to hang over our heads for longer.
“Santos shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind the cloak of confidentiality. Landholders in the region deserve to know where these lay down areas will be located.”
Background: Santos possesses an Authority to Survey for its Hunter Gas Pipeline, but the company is yet to invoke it. Santos needs to demonstrate it has tried all reasonable means to obtain voluntary access agreements before it can apply to the government to forcibly access properties without an owners’ permission. Santos still requires a pipeline licence to be granted by the State Government before it can physically commence construction of the actual pipeline.