This week’s large fire in the Pilliga caused by lightning strikes has again reiterated how flammable the Pilliga is. 8000 hectares of flora and fauna burned and tourist attractions such as the Salt and Sandstone caves are still closed to the public. These are costs that effect the Coonabarabran economy with lost tourist visitors and dollars, let alone to the damage to the Pilliga Nature Reserve itself which will take years to recover from. While the drought and weather conditions cannot be controlled, total fire bans do control what humans do – to a point. Because of NSW legislation, Santos is permitted to have large open flames in the middle of this tinderbox country, a sobering thought.
The open flare fire issue is but one of the problems with CSG extraction that has more local people willing to “lock-on” to equipment and infrastructure to delay Santos development. The #PilligaPush is now attracting farmers and protesters from all over who recognise the potential dangers to the Great Artesian Basin and to the welfare of the Pilliga itself. The protesters come form all walks of like – from local farmers to the Gomeroi people to the famed “Knitting Nannas”. Protests and locking on events are escalating as the groups build to a “Bentley Blockade” to cause as much disruption and delay to the Santos project.
Local group Coonabarabran Residents Against CSG Gas (CRAG) released this video this week highlighting (no pun intended) why the open CSG flaring is a major concern.