• Local opinion about a proposed coal seam gas project in Narrabri is divided. (Insight)
When Row, a farmer and mother of five, found out her property was on the proposed route for a coal seam gas (CSG) pipeline she quickly began fighting against it - and she plans to do whatever it takes to keep her town CSG free.
By
Rowena Macrae

Source:
SBS Insight
29 May - 7:38 PM  UPDATED 30 May - 2:09 PM

As mothers we are instinctively driven to care for our children. It doesn't take much to feel protective, and it’s something I pride myself on as a Mum to five beautiful kids, all under 10.

My hubby and I run a mixed farming enterprise northwest of Coonamble. Adam balances work in town and on the farm so I can spend as much time as possible with Oscar, Isobel, George, Audrey and Barney.

We certainly have our challenges and some days my head spins. Generally we are a simple family with simple goals – happiness, health and to go about our business making memories and contributing to this great community we live in.

Our children are already firmly entrenched in farm life - cattle work, mustering and feeding cattle - a task that is becoming more regular as we all pray for rain. It’s something we hope they will continue long after we are gone. We are always looking forward to ensure our children have that chance.

Life is hectic from sun up to sun down, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

No, there is one thing.

Below our life on the farm, actually beneath our entire community sits a resource that makes our life possible, our only reliable water source, The Great Artesian Basin (GAB).

Under 22 per cent of Australia, it means hundreds of communities can survive and thrive. It is the lifeblood of our region and it’s something our family and community are now forced to stand together to protect.

Some time ago we looked at what was brewing in the Pilliga State Forest with the Proposed Narrabri Gas Project and worried the GAB was at risk. Our community quickly declared that we wished to be Coal Seam Gas (CSG) free. We aren't activists – but 96 per cent of us firmly believe that the mining practices of the CSG industry are risky and unsafe.

We added our voices to the masses rejecting CSG in the Pilliga State Forest. We included our names on submissions opposing the project and cheered when they received more opposition than any other before it. With a small baby and four other children we did what we could, and hoped that common sense would see the project rejected.

Fast forward to a normal day; breakfast, lunchboxes, kids off to school etc. We received a letter notifying us that we were on the proposed route for a high pressure pipeline that would hold gas from the same project we already feared. I read and re-read that letter; I rang my husband shaking, close to tears. My mind instantly went to the Pilliga – gas fields - 850 wells – our water - my family.

Since that letter in days that were previously focused on family, friends, committees and work, we now live in a whirlwind of information gathering, submissions, writing to politicians, forums and meetings. I lay in bed at night fearful of the future for my family, my community and the region – for my children’s children – if this goes ahead what will we do?

The risks to the GAB are real. The risks to our livelihood are real. The risks to our entire region are real.

We are asked to believe that the practices are now safer and world’s best but every day brings a horrifying report of something new. Uranium spills, nose bleeds, seizures, suicide and cancer cluster are not just words I need my children knowing.

The environmental risks are unacceptable; damage to the GAB is not something we can ever hope to repair.

If it goes wrong my family is left trying to pick up the pieces with no water, no livelihood and a region decimated for a short term industry that will vanish when it all goes wrong.

Why can I get insurance to cover my death but not damage from this industry? How can it be that the pockets of a few are lined while entire communities concerns are silenced? We hoped the government would hear us, but as history has shown, we thought the same about asbestos and tobacco.

It is a daily grind on our family and families across this region. We don’t go a moment without it entering our minds. It has changed our life, our marriage and our community as we fight for the water, one of our fundamental human rights. I feel like those rights have been taken away.

And yet through this, we will not be divided, united along the length of the project from Pilliga to Condobolin, and across the entire region – we say NO. The risks to our families are real and unacceptable. We can’t simply say no and we bear all the risk if things turn bad. This is where we are.

We are fighting for survival and we simply cannot lose. My children are my world – what sort of mother would I be if I didn’t fight to my last breath for their future – for their home, their community and their right to grow up like their Daddy and be a farmer one day if they choose too.

Catch up on the full episode of Power Divide here:

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