Native Title Tribunal approves the Narrabri/Pilliga Gas Project

The tribunal ruled that the project does not impede the Native Title rights of Gomeroi owners.

Image Courtesy of Bevan Kay on Unsplash

The Native Title Tribunal greenlit Santos’ Narrabri/Pilliga gas project yesterday, despite the opposition from Gomeroi traditional owners. 

Gomeroi people of the Pilliga region contested this gas project as it is predicted to release 100 metric tonnes or carbon dioxide over 25 years. They argued that the project would impede their Native Title rights and their access to land and culture.

In an expert report provided to the Independent Planning Commission, alongside Santos’ application, climate scientist Professor Sackett recommended that the project must not proceed. ‘There is no possibility for true ‘remediation’ to current or future generations from the Narrabri gas project’, Professor Sackett states. 

Should the project continue, 1000 hectares of the sacred Pilliga forest will be logged and  95,000 hectares of land will be subject to coal seam gas extraction. Hydrologists expressed concerns about the insufficiency of data provided by Santos regarding contamination and impacts on the Great Artesian Basin.

The tribunal ruled that the economic benefits of the project were in the public interest, particularly as Santos has promised (though is not legally bound) to dedicate all energy to the domestic market. 

USyd 2023 Enviro Officer Maddie Clark said ”It’s an outrage that the Tribunal ruled that the mine would be more positive for the ‘public’ than not. It reflects that when they say ‘public good’ they mean the economic good of Australian capitalism.”

The ruling was made under the condition that Santos conducts research on the area’s cultural heritage prior to development. The Independent Planning Commission had previously imposed a suite of conditions ‘designed to avoid serious or irreversible damage’ to groundwater, biodiversity and heritage.