Anti-coal seam gas protesters travelled from around the country to rally outside Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s electorate office in Sydney on Tuesday.
The small group of demonstrators handed over a petition of 9,000 signatures, demanding better protection against the environmental and health impacts of CSG mining.
Independent Senator Glenn Lazarus led the charge, urging Mr Abbott to introduce laws that would give land owners the right to block mining companies from drilling on their property.
“The residents and the people living on and in these properties are going through sheer hell,” Senator Lazarus said.
The former rugby league star said he was so desperate to help the families, he was prepared to pull out a few moves from his playing days.
“I am prepared to squirrel grip the Prime Minister,” he said.
“If that doesn’t work I’ve got other things up my sleeve like the grapple tackle, the chicken wing, the crusher tackle. If that doesn’t work I’m prepared to use the Hopoate tactics.”
The coal seam gas industry disputes the claim that CSG extraction causes negative health impacts, citing a Queensland government report which could not draw a clear link.
Narelle Nothdurft flew from Queensland to attend the protest.
The mother of 11 lives near mining hot-spot Chinchilla and since buying the home in 2003, she’s seen 26 wells installed on and around her property against her will.
Ms Nothdurft said although she’s suffering terrible depression and doesn’t normally like talking in front of people, she felt compelled to front today’s protest.
She told the crowd about how her family had started getting sick since the wells were put in.
“They’re all so sick with headaches, a few of them with nosebleeds so I’m here because we were not allowed to say no to this stuff,” she said.
She said that’s on top of the “horrendous” noise of the wells, the vibrations cause her windows and bed to shake and there was dust.
“We have 32 times the (normal) amount of lead in our rainwater tank, we have 42 times the amount of aluminium in our tank,” she said.
Danielle Hodges from Camden, on the outskirts of Sydney, has also seen her family suffer since moving to the area.
A CSG well is located only 400 metres from her home, which is located in a residential area.
Ms Hodges said the emissions cause her son to suffer terrible nosebleeds, sometimes at night.
“I walked into the bathroom and slipped on the blood from a nose bleed,” she said.
“There was that much blood on the floor there was a puddle.”
The petition handed to the Prime Minister calls for three main things:
Health Impact Assessments and baseline monitoring before coal, coal seam gas and other gas developments are approvedExclusion zones near residential areasA right for land owners to say no to mining companies who want to put gas wells or coal mines on their property
When asked about CSG over the weekend, Mr Abbott said he acknowledged concerns.
“I want to assure people who are concerned that this Government would never, ever allow anything that we think threatens the long-term viability of our agricultural sector,” he said.
“Prime agricultural land is just about this country’s greatest natural asset and it can never, ever be compromised.”
Mr Abbott said that the Chief Scientist of New South Wales did a “very comprehensive report” which came out about a year ago.
“That certainly said that if done properly, coal seam gas extraction can and should go ahead,” he said.
“That’s the point – if it’s going to happen it’s got to be done properly and I would certainly urge state governments to make sure that there are the highest possible environmental standards applied.”
The NSW Government said that since coming to power, it’s worked hard to address concerns about CSG.
“Under the NSW Gas Plan, which we released in November 2014, we have reduced the footprint of CSG across NSW from 60 per cent down to 9 per cent,” a spokesman said.
Last year a number of gas companies including Santos and AGL signed the Agreed Principles of Land Access along with landholder representatives NSW Farmers, Cotton Australia and the NSW Irrigators Council.
As part of the agreement, gas companies confirmed they will respect the landholder’s wishes and not enter onto a Landholder’s property to conduct drilling operations where that landholder has clearly expressed the view that operations on their property would be unwelcome.
The NSW Government said it’s also introduced 2 kilometre exclusion zones to protect residential areas from CSG.
However they could not be applied retrospectively, meaning the well just 400 metres from Ms Hodges home can continue to operate.