‘Flood the phones & emails’: Gas Free Hunter Alliance hold online action against Kurri Kurri gas plant

“We don’t own the land – we’re here to look after it.”

On Friday afternoon, the Gas Free Hunter Alliance convened an online action against the proposed Kurri Kurri Gas Plant in the NSW Hunter region.

Co-organised with School Strike 4 Climate and supported by Workers for Climate Action and the USyd Enviro Collective, the action called on attendees to contact key Government decision-makers to voice their opposition to the proposed gas-fired power plant.

Initially announced in May, the project would see government-owned Snowy Hydro Limited spend $600m on building a 660 megawatt generator in Kurri Kurri, 38km west of Newcastle.

The plant has faced consistent opposition from community groups and experts, who have criticised the plant’s environmental costs and lacklustre prospects for creating sustainable jobs in the region.

While the government has claimed the project would create 600 jobs at the peak of construction, the environmental impact statement submitted to the NSW government suggested that there would be 250 jobs during construction, and only 10 during operation.

“Even during construction, there is absolutely no guarantee that jobs will go to local people… this dinosaur could ruin Kurri’s chances of reinventing itself and getting itself back to full employment,” said Janet Murray, a Kurri Kurri resident and chemical engineer.

Dayne Pratzky, an anti-fracking activist, spoke about feeling “overwhelmed” by the gas plant construction that occurred on his property in Western Queensland in 2009, and the “fallacy” of gas making a positive difference in the community.

“They built a pipeline probably about 80 metres from my front door, they drilled hundreds of gas wells around me, they spent a billion dollars on a processing plant,” he said.

The action comes amid an ongoing decentralised week of action dedicated to opposing the plant and supporting a just transition to renewable energy, jobs and radical sustainability. 

Alexa Stuart, a 17-year old student and School Strike 4 Climate organiser, demonstrated by calling the office of NSW MP Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning and Public Spaces. Stokes bears the responsibility of making the final decision to reject or approve the plant.

Stuart and other attendees then reported that staff at the offices of Stokes, NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean and Federal Energy and Emissions Reductions Minister Angus Taylor told them to make a formal written submission instead.

SRC Co-Environment Officer Lauren Lancaster told Honi about the importance of continuing to engage others in radical climate action, even though lockdown is challenging movements’ ability to mobilise.

“The Kurri Kurri week of action is one of the mechanisms that we’re using to make our voices heard, even if we can’t protest in conventional ways at the moment,” she said.

The community’s opposition to further gas projects comes from a “responsibility, morally, to ensure that intergenerational equity is protected,” said Scott Franks, a Wonnarua man and native title claimant. “We don’t own the land – we’re here to look after it.”