Farmers call for Government to suspend Santos’ operations while court case is heard
Protests resume after pepper spray incident
A 73 year-old sixth generation farmer from the Coonamble area has this morning become the latest person to block access to the construction site of Santos’ Leewood CSG waste water facility in the Pilliga forest in North West NSW.
Neil Kennedy has locked himself by the neck to the front gate of the construction site, and is joined this morning by local and regional supporters.
Mr Kennedy said, “I don’t think it’s right that Santos can build this waste water treatment plant, with all the risks involved, while a court case is still underway to sort out whether its approval without a proper environmental assessment was lawful or not.
“The fact that Santos is pushing on with construction while the Leewood facility’s approval is the subject of a pending court case suggests the company is overly confident of an ultimate approval. Why can’t they wait for due process before they press on in the face of so much opposition and legal uncertainty?”
“I’m willing to risk getting arrested here today because the Government and Santos don’t seem to respect how high the stakes are for us out here when it comes to groundwater. If an old farmer is chaining himself to someone else’s gate, maybe that will show them how much our artesian water means to us, and how seriously we will fight to protect it, if the Government won’t.
Sarah Ciesiolka, a potato and peanut farmer from Wee Waa joined Mr Kennedy at the protest today. Ms Ciesiolka said, “Our local community group has challenged the legality of the Government’s approval for this waste water plant, which will process up to a million litres a day of CSG water, produce huge volumes of brine that will need to be disposed of somehow, and conduct an experimental irrigation program.
“With all the spills and problems that coal seam gas has already had here in the Pilliga, we expected the Government to be on the public’s side and require Santos to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for a risky and large scale development like this. It’s not too much to ask for them to stop work while our court case is heard. We will keep protesting until the Government asks Santos to stop work here.”
The past month has seen 16 people arrested at protests at Leewood and hundreds of people participating. Yesterday a grandmother from South Australia was pepper sprayed whilst vulnerable and locked on to machinery at the site.
A directions hearing for the People for the Plains court challenge to the approval of the Leewood facility will be held at the Land and Environment Court in Macquarie Street, Sydney, on Friday