A Coonabarabran mother of three is this morning courageously halting work and risking arrest stopping bulldozers in the Pilliga forest in north west New South Wales where gas giant Santos has begun work for its latest round of coal seam gas exploratory drilling.
Santos' exploratory drilling program earlier this year was delayed and interrupted by repeated protests by farmers that rely on groundwater for their livelihood. Santos began clearing work on the latest round of exploration yesterday.
Nicole Hunter has attached herself to a bulldozer to stop Santos clearing a patch of the forest for a new coal seam gas drill pad. She is being supported by a group of Coonabarabran locals.
Mrs Hunter's husband comes from a Gulargambone farming family, but she and her husband recently moved to Coonabarabran to raise their children.
She said, "We want to raise our children on a local farm and settle here for life. We love this area, and don't want to see it industrialised. We want to preserve the character of our town and region. We don't want to see our region industrialised and our towns become boom-bust mining towns.
"Our whole focus as a couple is our kid's future in the bush. We're devastated that our kids could potentially suffer the same health impacts as children in Queensland.
"I'm afraid to do this, but it's worth getting arrested to defend what we’ve got here."
Narrabri business owner Rohan Boehm is at the protest and said, “It’s not right that people like Mrs Hunter should be wedged into a situation where they need to take personal risk like this to protect their community and their family. Residents of Narrabri and beyond are very concerned about the negative health and water impacts of coal seam gas fields in the region.
Over 40 spoken presentations from local community members called on the Planning Assessment Commission in Narrabri to reject drilling program.
Last month, the NSW Chief Scientist recommended an overhaul of coal seam gas laws in NSW. Her recommendations have not been implemented.
"Why is the State Government dragging its feet and letting Santos go ahead with this project? We need them to act to stop it. We won’t stand for it: Santo are not welcome here."