Communities around Australia and overseas have made many thousands of submissions during the Department of Planning and Environment’s extended 90-day public exhibition of Santos’ Environmental Impact Statement for the Narrabri Gas Project.
Mike Young, Director of Resource Assessments, said the Department sought to consult broadly and encourage feedback from a wide range of people and groups during the exhibition.
“Almost 23,000 submissions, including around 500 submissions from the local area and around 18,000 form submissions, have been received by the Department during the exhibition period, Mr Young said.
“This is the most submissions the Department has ever received on a development application, and it reflects the high-level of public interest in coal seam gas in general, and in this project.
“All submissions and any additional issues will be considered more thoroughly as we continue with the assessment.
“We will also be meeting with key stakeholders in the coming weeks to discuss issues raised in more detail, including Narrabri Shire Council.”
Mr Young added the 18,000 form objections came from a range of places within NSW, and there were around 5,000 submissions from interstate and almost 200 from overseas.
“Most of the public submissions objected to the project. However, we did receive around 300 submissions in support and most of these were from the Narrabri area,” Mr Young said.
“There are 10 submissions from NSW government agencies and four from local councils in the region including the Environment Protection Authority, Department of Primary Industries, Office of Environment and Heritage, Division of Resources and Geoscience and Narrabri, Gunnedah, Warrumbungle and Gilgandra Shire Councils.
“None of the agencies or local councils objected to the proposal, but they highlighted a range of issues that should be given further consideration before any decision is made.
“There were also around 100 submissions from a range of environmental, community, farming, Aboriginal and business groups.
Submissions were received from groups including the Nature Conservation Council, Lock the Gate, People for the Plains, Knitting Nannas Against Gas, North West Alliance, Namoi Water, Artesian Bore Water Users Association, Cotton Australia, Narrabri Local Aboriginal Land Council and the Narrabri and District Chamber of Commerce.
“At this stage, we can see the main issues raised by the community include impacts on groundwater and agriculture, health risks related to air emissions and water pollution, the conservation values of the Pilliga Forest, management of waste products such as salt, and lighting impacts on the Siding Springs Observatory.
“Objections highlighted opposition to coal seam gas and fossil fuels more generally, including concerns about climate change and the need for society to rely more on renewable sources of energy.”
Santos is now required to respond to submissions, called a Response to Submissions (RtS). Once the RtS is received by the Department it will be published on the Major Projects website.
The Department will then undertake a thorough assessment of the merits of the project in consultation with key government agencies and independent experts, including the Environmental Impact Statement, all submissions and community feedback, and the RtS.
The final decision on the merits of the project will be made by the independent Planning Assessment Commission.
Submissions will be published on the Major Projects website shortly majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au