JUST two days after a large crowd from across the region gathered to put their concerns about coal seam gas mining in the Pilliga in front of a senior Labor delegation, including the state Labor party leader Michael Daley, they turned out again.
While the NSW Labor leader gave an ‘iron clad’ guarantee that the Narrabri Gas Project would not be approved if his party were elected on 23 March, the makers of Pilliga Rising still believe voters need to hear the voices of the people behind the anti-coal seam gas movement.
This time the auditorium at Coonamble Bowling Club was set up for a film screening and almost 150 people attended from Warren, Coonabarabran and areas west of Coonamble, along with curious townspeople and local farmers to view Pilliga Rising.
The film immersed the audience in the local landscape and put the spotlight on just four of the voices of opposition to the Narrabri Gas Project and the associated Western Slopes Pipeline.
The 38 minute documentary was commissioned by the Wilderness Society and produced by Melbourne-based Balangara Films over a 12 month period.
The fact that farmers and graziers from around the district have linked arms and pooled resources with organisations like the Wilderness Society speaks volumes about the ‘historic activities’ that have taken place across the west since the announcement of the Narrabri Gas Project.
At the heart of these alliances are shared concerns over the future Great Artesian Basin and the Pilliga Forest, two of the defining features of the area.
The film documents four very different views on the risks to the environment, current and future livelihoods, culture and communities across the region from coal seam gas.
Gamilaraay woman Paris Norton, retired engineer and Narrabri farmer Tony Pickard, German immigrant and owner of Pilliga Pottery Maria Rickert and Coonamble farmer and father of five Adam Macrae.
The vision of the Pilliga and surrounding plains was beautifully shot and the personalities and perspectives of the four people interviewed were heartfelt and highly contemporary.
Their intelligence, commitment and connection to both the country and their communities shone through the film.
There were many cameo appearances by local people going about their business at community meetings, Indigenous cultural events, the Coonamble Show, or dining at the restaurant at Pilliga Pottery and more.
“This is the story of community, truth, courage and water,” said Naomi Hodgson from the Wilderness Society. “That’s what really matters.”
“Over five or six years there has been extraordinary community opposition … and some historic activity, and we are very close to winning.”
The hosts of Monday night’s screening were the Great Artesian Basin Protection Group, who see the coming state election as a ‘now or never’ opportunity to halt coal seam gas mining in the Pilliga.
“Last night hightlighted the need to see further than the next twenty years,” said GABPG member David Chadwick.
“We cannot do without water and with renewable energy developing so rapidly, the big question is whether gas will even be in the energy mix in twenty years.”
The first screening in Narrabri on Sunday 24 February drew 80 people.
Coonabarabran hosted the film at Flix in the Stix on Tuesday 26 February and Gilgandra Services Club is the venue at 6pm tonight.
Further screenings are planned for Dubbo, Lismore, Newtown and Bronte in Sydney and Newcastle.
“The film will soon be available online and we just hope that community members will use their networks to encourage city and coastal family and friends to invest 40 minutes of their time to watch the film,” said one of the film’s ‘stars’ Adam Macrae.