Did you know that fossil fuel giant Santos is trying to drill for gas in the Great Artesian Basin, against the wishes of Gomeroi Traditional Owners?
Recently, we joined The Climate Council and Gomeroi Traditional Owners on Gomeroi Country in the Pilliga in West NSW to learn about the disastrous plans Santos have to drill for gas against the consent of Traditional Owners. We’re no scientists, but it's clear that turning one of the biggest forests in Australia AND the biggest groundwater basin in Australia into a giant gas field is a terrible idea!
You can hear more directly from Traditional Owners in this short video from the Climate Council, here.
Gomeroi Traditional Owners have cared for lands and waters, protecting the Pillga forest just as the Pilliga forest protected and nurtured them since time immemorial but right now, a giant oil & gas project is putting sacred lands and waters at risk from toxic leaks and the negative impacts of drilling for oil & gas.
For the past 10 years, Gomeroi Traditional Owners have been fighting to stop oil & gas giant Santos from turning their sacred Pilliga Forest into a giant gas basin. Traditional Owners have said no to oil & gas wells, but Santos wants to build 850 coal seam gas wells on sacred Gomeroi land in the Pilliga region, far west NSW. The plan is to drill in the Pilliga forest, with some drill sites going straight into the Great Artesian Basin. Not only would this be disastrous for the climate, but the impacts on Country, Culture and the integral waterways of the Great Artesian Basin would be absolutely devastating.
For those who have never heard of the Great Artesian Basin - it’s pretty much a giant freshwater basin that runs over a huge portion of the driest places in Australia. It’s the largest groundwater basin in Australia and sustains life for so many communities, ecosystems, wildlife, and of course - is the reason farmers can grow our food in really dry places! Water really is life in the communities that rely on the Artesian Basin. But drilling for gas in this basin puts the water at risk of toxic leaks from the extraction process. Traditional Owners call the Pilliga Forest the Umbilical Cord of the Great Artesian Basin, and if you have ever been there in the rainy season it’s easy to see why - the Pilliga feeds water into the Great Artesian Basin!
Why should this matter to all of us?
Aside from the importance of land sovereignty for Traditional Owners - the truth is, when polluting projects like this go ahead we all lose. As our science friends at the Climate Council say, this project must be stopped because of the mass of polluting greenhouse gases it will emit, contributing to dangerous climate change. The science is clear - any new fossil fuel projects lock Australia and the world on a path to overshoot 1.5Cº which we need to keep our planet safe. We must not drill any new fossil fuels and transition to a renewable economy - and as the windiest and one of the sunniest places on the planet, we are in the best position to do this!
Surely, the Gomeroi Native Land Title is enough to stop this disastrous plan to drill?
Gomeroi Traditional Owners voted unanimously NO to Santos building 850 gas wells on sacred land. Surely this should be enough to stop Santos? Unfortunately, not. Right now, Santos have taken Gomeroi Traditional Owners to Court to try to get their rights bypassed so they can go ahead with drilling for gas.
At the end of 2022, the Native Title Tribunal sadly found in favour of Santos and rejected the Gomeroi People's claims to Native Title. After such hard work for so long from First Nations people, community members and organizations, this is a massive blow, but only reaffirms the fight for the Gomeroi peoples.
What can be done to stop this?
Instead of dispossessing Traditional Owners from their land to drill for planet wrecking new fossil fuels, we urgently need to be strengthening Traditional Owners land rights and investing heavily in a just transition away from fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy and green technologies instead.
We stand with Gomeroi People in the fight to protect Country against Santos - join us to sign the petition here today!
Want to learn more about what is happening in the Pilliga? A great short film was put together by Natalie Haddad that you can watch here.
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