Narrabri: Traditional custodians lock-on at CSG wastewater plant

Gamilaraay custodians Paul Spearim and Nathan Leslie lock on to Santos equipment at its Narrabri wastewater treatment plant. Photo Iris Ray Nunn23 Dec – While people in the northern rivers are still celebrating the region’s new gasfield free status, two Gamilaraay traditional custodians from Moree are battling CSG company Santos using the same techniques that helped win the battle here.

The pair have entered Santos’ property about 25km south of Narrabri and halted construction at the Leewood coal seam gas wastewater treatment plant by locking themselves with a metal pipe to excavating equipment.

Fifteen supporters risked arrest to accompany the men onto the Santos’ property, while another 15 people demonstrated their support from outside the fence.

There has been a recent resurgence in protest activity against Santos’ works in the Pilliga forest near Narrabri as the company begins construction at Leewood.

The large-scale wastewater treatment plant is regarded as as a significant milestone in the development of the coal seam gas industry in NSW, and is the subject of a pending court case that will question the legality of its approval.

Fifty-four-year-old Paul Spearim, a respected Gamilaraay cultural authority, said in local language ‘Our ancestors are always watching (Ngiyaningu maran yaliwunga ngarra-li).’

‘We want Santos to get out of our sacred lands and protect our gali (water),’ he added.

His lock-on partner Nathan Leslie, a 32 year-old Gamilaraay man, said he saw it has his responsibility to stop the project on his ancestral land.

‘We’re halting construction at Santos’ Leewood coal seam gas wastewater treatment facility in the Pilliga as this operation is a major step forward for the risky CSG industry in NSW and as a Gamilaraay man it is my responsibility to oppose this threat to country.’

‘This Leewood facility will result in 500 million tonnes of toxic waste after just five years of exploration activity.

‘This toxic industry threatens our water, our country and our culture, and Gamiliaraay people say “no” to Santos’ coal seam gas,’ Mr Leslie said.

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