A cultural heritage camp and workshop has been set up near Ten Mile Dam in the NSW Pilliga State forest in protest of the Santos gasfield development.
“The industrialisation of the Pilliga has begun, and so has the resistance” said Phil Laird national co-ordinator for the Lock the Gate Alliance.
Last week a peaceful picnic was held at the site of an area of forest being cleared, with picknickers reportedly halting Santos operations that day.
Santos was given approval to go ahead with eight exploration coal seam gas wells in the forest in early September.
At the time, a Santos spokesperson said that drilling was expected to commence this year, stating that “the proposed exploration program will have no significant impact on the groundwater sources in the region”.
However, some members of the local community and environmental groups slammed the decision to allow CSG exploration work to continue in the forest.
The Wilderness Society asked how the government came to an approval decision after it took Santos to court over the spill of untreated water at the Pilliga drilling site.
“Given their track record, Santos plans for 400 wells in the Pilliga Forest could turn the region into the biggest environmental disaster zone NSW has seen," The Wilderness Society’s campaign manager Naomi Hogan said.
"Santos has not shown they can fix the past damage, let alone start drilling and spilling again on a larger scale."
An NSW Trade & Investment spokesperson said the projects received approval on “subject to strict environmental reporting and monitoring conditions”.
“Before Santos can produce water from these wells they are required to lodge and have approved a produced water management plan,” the spokesperson said.
Narrabri resident and Gomeroi woman Deborah Briggs said all were welcome to visit the cultural heritage tent.
“I've extended an invitation to community members to help celebrate Gomeroi culture and heritage by learning some of our Gomeroi Traditional customs in beautiful Pilliga State forest and to save the water systems from toxic poisoning,” Briggs said.