Farmers and surveyors have faced off in CSG pipeline protest | Photos

Just weeks after protests were made against coal seam gas exploration at the Pilliga forest, where hundreds of people formed a human sign that spelt ‘no csg’, another standoff has occurred between landowners and surveyors looking to further refine a corridor for a gas pipeline across the Pilliga.

On Monday, November 20, workers associated with the pipeline’s proponent, APA, were allegedly caught trespassing on a private property near Coonamble.

According to the APA’s Western Slopes Pipeline FAQs “APA is progressing preliminary studies for construction of a 450 kilometre (approximate) gas pipeline – the Western Slopes Pipeline, connecting natural gas from Santos’ proposed Narrabri Gas Project to the New South Wales gas transmission network, via the Moomba Sydney Pipeline.”

Upon hearing that the APA surveyors were on the property, 70 local landholders came out to the farm to support the owners. A witness told the Western Magazine that the APA surveyors entered the property illegally.

“They disregarded padlocks… climbed over the gate and disregarded the ‘no trespass’ sign,” the witness said.

“In 20 minutes 70 people came out to the farm to support the landholders.”

The witness said when the APA surveyor’s were asked for identification none was produced.

“They also threatened they had a court order but there was none,” they said.

In regards to the incident the Western Magazine contacted APA for a comment and received this response:

“In June 2017, APA was granted an Authority to Survey (ATS) in respect of land along the proposed Western Slopes Pipeline alignment by the NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities under the provisions of the Pipelines Act 1967. The terms of the ATS provide APA and its agents with clear and unambiguous rights to enter private land to investigate the proposed pipeline route. These investigations involve a variety of field activities such as ecological and cultural heritage surveys, which will be used to refine the alignment of the pipeline and ultimately inform the environmental impact assessment being prepared for the project.Despite recent suggestions to the contrary, Section 5H of the Act provides the holder of an ATS with express permission to undertake such activities.

“APA commenced a program of field surveys along the proposed pipeline alignment in early August that has included ecology, soils, indigenous and non-indigenous cultural heritage surveys. Those scheduled survey activities are now in their final stages and over 200km of surveys have already been completed. Approximately half of the field work has been conducted under voluntary agreements struck with landowners, and the other half in accordance with the right granted by the ATS in consultation with landowners.

“All survey activities have been undertaken in accordance with the ATS and the Western Slopes Pipeline: Biosecurity Management Protocol and biosecurity laws. This has included written notification to landowners prior to any property entry, and an invitation to landowners to submit any reasonable requirements they wish to have accommodated. While not preferable, in the rare cases where property owners have not responded to repeated efforts to make contact, the ATS ultimately provides a limited right of entry for activities that have no material impact on the land.  APA understands that there are various reasons for landowners to not respond, this includes not being concerned about the proposed activities given the protections APA has in place for biosecurity, stock safety and other key issues.

“Up until this week, all survey work undertaken to support the Western Slopes Pipeline project has occurred in a collaborative manner and without incident. With regard to protest activity at a handful of properties in recent days:

“APA gave prior notice to owners on all occasions in writing, advising them of the intent to survey the properties, details of the work intended and the dates of the survey.  The letters request landholders to communicate with APA to identify any requirements or protections for when we survey the properties.  When landholders do not raise any issues, APA is allowed to continue with the survey under section 5H of the Pipelines Act.  The use of the Authority to Survey is a last resort for APA.  We make every reasonable effort to establish contact before using our authority to survey granted by the Minister.

“APA will continue to seek comments from all impacted landowners as the project moves forward and landowners are encouraged to raise their concerns directly with the project team.

“APA respects the rights of people to have their say in a peaceful and safe manner. However, some instances of harassment and threatening behaviour over the past two days have been excessive and are the subject of ongoing discussions with police.”