Business

The town divided by coal seam gas

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A proposed coal seam gas project in this regional town has become a taboo subject amongst locals.

Narrabri, a rural country town in north-west New South Wales, is home to around 6,000 people.

But those roughly 6,000 people have been divided ever since coal seam gas (CSG) came to town.

Gas giant, Santons, plans to drill 850 wells in and around the Pilliga Forest. The proposed project spans 95,000 hectares of land and Santos is awaiting state government approval to begin producing CSG in the region.

But the community has been split in two, with some in favour of the project while others vehemently reject it.

This divide can be seen amongst neighbors, colleagues and friends.

Good mates, Rodney and Bruce, have found themselves holding very different opinions when it comes to CSG.

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Peter Gett has three coal seam gas wells on his property, located just outside Narrabri in north-west New South Wales. But not everyone is in favour of allowing coal seam gas wells to be dug on their property. What happens to a region when coal seam gas comes knocking?
Peter Gett has three coal seam gas wells on his property, located just outside Narrabri in north-west New South Wales. But not everyone is in favour of allowing coal seam gas wells to be dug on their property. What happens to a region when coal seam gas comes knocking?

“Well, I sort of had a look at the project from the start when Santos took it over and saw how they went about it and sort of Santos' history out at Innamincka and … decided that if we're going to have someone do it, we may as well have them,” Rodney explains.

Bruce couldn’t disagree more.

“The divide is that 95 per cent of the people that don't want CSG have everything to lose and nothing to gain,” he says.

“And the 95 per cent of people that want CSG have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

But despite their differing opinions their friendship has remained intact.

“Look, I think we just agree to disagree and I think people in town, when they socialise, it's a taboo subject,” he says.

“People just don't talk about it or you just end up in never, never land.”

Rodney says he respects his friend’s opinion.

“You deliberately not engage on issues where you would have conflict."

Local farmer, Jon-Marie, has also found herself having to avoid discussing CSG with friends in the town.

“I think people are quite conservative in our community. So you don't have the discussion about coal seam gas,” she says.

She has found herself on the opposite side of the argument to her friend Louise, who supports the project. Their regular personal training sessions at the gym have had to become free of CSG discussion.

“You deliberately not engage on issues where you would have conflict,” she says, a statement echoed by Louise.

“I do it out of respect. I respect Jon-Marie's view and her position on it and think that she respects mine so there is no need to discuss it.”

The region is awaiting to hear whether the project gets given the green light by the NSW Government.

Catch up on the full episode of Power Divide here:

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