Coal Seam Gas and Country Women

The following is a guest post from Angie Smith, a cotton and wheat farmer from northern NSW.

Prior to 2010 I didn't even know what coal seam gas was or that it was embedded in the coal seams deep under our farm. I had no idea what a Petroleum Exploration Licence was let alone that there was one covering our district called PEL470. Hydraulic fracturing was another language.

They say ignorance is bliss and little did I know that life as I knew it was about to change forever.

After a visit from a representative from Planet Gas seeking permission to drill a core hole on our land life went into overdrive. Being a fourth generation farmer I descend from a long line of agriculturalists. My husband is a successful, passionate farmer and our three children, although at university and school, are heavily involved with the running of our family farm. The land is not only in our blood but our hearts as well. Mining companies and governments thought they could establish a gas industry in some of the richest farming land in Australia. They didn't bank on the power of people.

Life became very different from the usual day to day running of the farm and family. Night reading became Petroleum Onshore Act 1991 and NSW Government Draft Strategic Regional Land use Plan. Neighbours were alerted and meetings were planned and email lists collated. Meetings with local, state and federal MP's were attended. Days spent at the legislative Council Inquiries. Letters were written. Politicians from all parties came to our home to discuss CSG. The phone rang constantly. Involvement on an advisory committee enabled travel to Emerald, Springsure, Toowoomba, Chinchilla, Dalby, Gunnedah, Narrabri and Brisbane to meet with others farmers to learn from their experiences and realise that coexistence is not possible. Legal advice was sought. Lobbying of politicians became a daily occurrence. Meetings with the Chief Scientist and various other influential people became the norm. Every landowner in PEL470 was united and signed an objection to the licence renewal of PEL470.

On 14th October 2014 the Minister for resources and Energy cancelled our licence.

People power had triumphed.

Women are very passionate and if you threaten our homes, families and livelihoods we swing into action. Clean water, air and soil are a right for every man woman and child in this beautiful country. We have a right to know how and under what conditions our food and fibre are grown. We owe that to ourselves and our children and grandchildren. The methane is still in the coal seams under the ground so the fight is not over. Sustainable energy is the way of the future. "You can't eat coal and you can't drink gas". Australian agriculture has a huge job ahead feeding the world with only 6% prime agricultural land. If our precious agricultural lands are left unmined, future generations of Australian farmers will still be feeding the world in the centuries to come.

Wonderful Women - Our: Land, Water, Future

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