The future of the proposed Narrabri Gas Project is being comprehensively canvassed across the spectrum of community interests and concerns with hundreds of individuals and organisations arguing for and against.

The NSW Independent Planning Commission is in the final stages of a public hearing into the project, having heard most of the 404 submissions via videolink from The Crossing Theatre, video conferencing and phone-in presentations.

Telephone and electronic submissions will also be heard on Saturday, August 1, after the original week-long hearing was extended.

In addition to the spoken testimony, written submissions have been flowing in to the IPC and will be accepted until Monday, August 10.

The IPC had a further meeting on Tuesday this week with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment-appointed Water Expert Panel.

The meeting focused on ‘concerns raised during the public hearing that knowledge gaps in relation to the groundwater model, geology, hydrogeology and seismic activity create uncertainty about the risks posed by the Narrabri Gas Project’, and ‘the potential for groundwater contamination via well integrity failure’ and ‘risks and options associated with the management of salt waste.’

The IPC also held a meeting on Tuesday with the NSW Environment Protection Authority to discuss the EPA’s role as lead regulator, with groundwater and salt waste management on the agenda.

The IPC gas project public hearing is evidently the biggest ever held in NSW.

The majority of submissions, oral and written, have been in opposition to the project.

Opponents have drawn on their own scientific sources to question, counter and disagree with the science presented by the proponents, and the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s assessment which endorsed the gas project as being ‘in the public interest and approvable under strict conditions.’
Speakers challenged elements of the Deparment’s Assessment.

The gas project has aroused strong feelings. Videolink presenters opposed were passionate, sometimes emotional, expressing fears for the future of the wider environment and the health of the community, others were analytical, with climate scientists arguing against the use of gas, a fossil fuel, in the future.

Approval of the gas project was depicted by some as a betrayal of generations of family farmers who have laboured through drought and flood for more than 100 years.

Presenters feared the go ahead for the gas project would inevitably mean the end of the Great Artesian Basin as a source of water for farming, forever, and the destruction of usable groundwater in perpetuity.

Objectors claimed farming in the North West, including the Liverpool Plains, would be destroyed and bushfire risk would be worsened.

Many objection scenarios were prefaced with ‘toxic’ and ‘poison.’

Gomeroi presenters spoke of the destruction of millennia of indigenous cultural and heritage values in the Pilliga; naturalists warned of danger to biodiversity, even the extinction of plant and animal species.

The role of gas as an energy source for the future was discounted as speakers argued that renewables were taking primacy.

Santos has emphasised that it has utilised the best available science through a very long and comprehensive process.

Speakers in favour of the gas project argued that the economic benefits if the gas project went ahead would be significant for Narrabri Shire, the
region and NSW.

Narrabri gas would have major strategic value, it would be the catalyst for new industries to be established at the source, that is Narrabri, with an attendant huge boost in employment and opportunities as the ‘multiplier effect’ ramped up.

The proponents have reported that several major industries have indicated they are keen to establish close to the gas energy source.

The items mentioned, above, are just a snapshot of some of the community views submitted to the IPC public hearing.

Interested readers will find the full transcripts of the spoken presentations, and the written submissions so far, on the IPC website.

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