Pat Schultz, NPA Armidale Branch

I have been leading tag a long tours of Pilliga and Leard Forests for the last 4 years. The tours began when my Armidale NPA group visited the Pilliga Forest. We saw the damage caused by twenty-two ‘produced water’ spills and cleared well pads. Produced water is a salty water contaminated with lead, aluminium, arsenic, barium, boron, nickel and uranium and more, brought up from 800 -1000 meters from beneath the Pilliga sandstone.

Our NPA group discussed how to save this little known forest. We decided that showing people the beauty and destruction of Pilliga was our best strategy. I have continued with this strategy.

Pilliga Forest is 3,000 square km of semi-arid woodland, in temperate north-central NSW. It is the largest continuous remnant woodland in NSW. The forest is located near the towns of Narrabri, Coonabarabran, Pilliga and Gwabegar (where Barnaby Joyce has his weekender, 600km from Sydney with no airport within 200km? investment in coal seam gas?).

The Pilliga Forest hosts at least 900 plants, 50 reptiles and 15 frogs species, also squirrel gliders, koalas, rufous bettongs, black striped wallabies and the endangered Pilliga Mouse. The Pilliga supports many populations of birds including, swift parrots, regent honeyeaters, the turquoise parrots, and many other endangered birds.

The geology of the area is dominated by Pilliga sandstone, which filters the water that flows to the Great Artesian Basin (GAB). This is a recharge zone of the GAB. Most of the surface of the GAB over Australia is not permeable; the rain water cannot reach the GAB. The Narrabri area is one of the areas where surface water reaches our most important underground water source. Should the Santos project go ahead The GAB is at risk. Contamination of the GAB it is not reversible. We must protect this invaluable water source. It is the life blood of inland Australia.

There are many tourist attractions in the area which are listed in my book ‘The  Plundering of Leard and Pilliga Forests and the surrounding Farmlands’. Some we visit on the tour, the Pilliga Pub or Cafe’, Pilliga artesian bore pool, Sandstone Caves, Sculptures in the Scrub, the fire tower, salt caves, Pilliga Pottery, Wando Farm and Leard Forest Warrumbungle National Park, Siding Springs Observatory and the Narrabri Australia Telescope Compact Array.

All this is being threatened by Santos Coal Seam Gas project and Whitehaven Coal Mines. The bright lights from coal and coal seam gas mining threatens the “Dark Skies” required for the function of Siding Springs Observatory

Santos is seeking approval to drill up to 850 coal seam gas wells on 425 sites, and pipe-lines to Curtis Island and Newcastle.

The forest will be dissected like a checker board of well pads, wells, roads and pipelines. This will destroy the intact forest, and increased traffic will further threaten wildlife.

Santos have built a reverse osmosis plant, infrastructure and holding ponds on their property Leewood on the border of the Pilliga Forest. They are now planning the pipeline.

Nearby is the unique Leard State Forest. Leard State Forest is irreplaceable. It represents one of the last forested areas of the almost entirely cleared Liverpool plains. It contains old growth quality Whitebox gum woodland, a critically endangered ecological community. This 8,000ha habitat area is about three times the size of Sydney’s CDB. It houses nearly 400 native species of flora and fauna. This includes 34 species which are threatened with extinction including koalas, feathertail glider, barking owl, regent honeyeater and swift parrot.

Two-thirds of Leard State Forest will be clear felled for three large coal mines. Coal mining must end. Australia’s Climate Council says 80% of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. Maules Creek mine will dump 18,000 tonnes of coal dust onto communities and emit 30 tonnes of CO2 per year. Clearing of Leard Forest continues. Environmental Impact Statements are being prepared for coal mines in the few remaining forests on the Liverpool Plains. We must act now.

Join a three day tag a long tour to look at the beauty of Pilliga and Leard Forest and surrounding farmland, and, or/and buy the book ‘The Plundering of Leard and Pilliga Forest and Surrounding Farmland’ please email Pat Schultz or call 0428725852  for details.

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