The supply of reliable and affordable energy, including natural gas, is essential for Australia and regional communities.

Progressing new developments like the recently approved Santos Narrabri gas project is vital, especially when other parts of the economy are constrained by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Independent Planning Commission’s decision to greenlight the Narrabri gas project is an important step forward in supporting jobs and economic recovery as well as unlocking much-needed domestic gas supply.

This is also an important outcome for energy security and reliability in NSW, which has ample untapped natural gas resources.

The economic case for Narrabri is irrefutable – well-paid and secure local jobs, royalties and placing downward pressure on gas and electricity prices.

The project will also create 1,300 jobs during construction and 200 local ongoing jobs – providing win-win opportunities for landowners and local communities from onshore development, increased supply and energy security for decades to come.

Of course, our industry takes its responsibility very seriously to continue to power Australian homes, businesses, hospitals, schools and other industries, including in rural and regional areas.

Developing resources – both onshore and offshore – has never been more important.

It requires continued commitment and investment during a critical time when Australia needs jobs, manufacturing and to keep the lights on.

However, recent claims by the NSW Farmers – as well as other activists – that the Narrabri gas project is unsafe and is too risky to progress is misguided.

The environmental issues associated with onshore gas have also been exhaustively analysed by the NSW Chief Scientist and numerous other independent inquiries.

If Queensland’s highly successful onshore coal seam gas industry is any gauge, these projects offer major benefits to the region’s landholders – including farmers and food producers – from infrastructure improvement, water and tax-free income.

Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception that the natural gas and agriculture sectors are mutually exclusive. In fact, the opposite is true.

Today’s agribusinesses work side-by-side with the oil and gas sector to utilise some of the most sophisticated science and technology deployed anywhere in Australia.

The evidence is clear – good regulation and good industry practice mean that onshore gas can be developed safely with mutually beneficial outcomes. It’s absurd to further delay something that will deliver widespread benefits for the region, state and nation, which can be managed in an environmentally responsible and safe manner.

Australia’s oil and gas industry is fully committed to working with the state and federal governments – and local communities – to ensure security of supply and maintain the oil and gas industry as a key engine of economic growth and stability as well as supporting Australia’s COVID-19 economic recovery.

Continuing to attract investment for further development is also is vital and increasing supply requires political support, regulatory certainty and confidence is maintained. This will provide an ongoing opportunity for the oil and gas industry to continue to grow, create employment, support local communities and continue to provide energy security for the future.

Andrew McConville, chief executive officer, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association

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