AFTER a hiatus of almost two years as they awaited the approval of the Narrabri Gas Project, APA has confirmed that they will now be progressing development of the Western Slopes Pipeline (WSP).
The 460 kilometre pipeline would connect Santos’ coal seam gas production facility in the Pilliga Forest to the Moomba Sydney pipeline 100 kilometres west of Condobolin.
The pipeline route, which was confirmed in 2018, would skirt across the northern edges of the Pilliga Forest into Walgett Shire, run south of Pilliga village and head south west through the Coonamble, Warren, Bogan, Cobar and Lachlan Shires.
The pipeline also travels through the territory of three separate Local Aboriginal Land Councils.
In a statement released when the Independent Planning Commission announced their approval of the Narrabri Gas Project on 30 September, APA Group Managing Director Rob Wheals said, “The Narrabri Gas Project will deliver significant benefits to the state and local communities in the Narrabri region.
“Connecting to APA’s existing Moomba Sydney Pipeline, the WSP will play a key role in helping ensure that consumers across New South Wales continue to have safe, reliable and affordable gas supplies for their homes and their businesses.”
Although the pipeline and the gas production facility are two separate projects, one cannot proceed without the other.
One of the 134 conditions of approval for the Narrabri Gas Project is that construction of wells and related infrastructure cannot begin until planning approval is granted for a transmission pipeline to deliver gas from the site to the domestic gas network.
A further condition means that Santos cannot start producing gas until the transmission pipeline is commissioned.
Mr Wheals also stressed that APA will continue to engage with local landholders, community members and stakeholders during future stages of the WSP project, and will work to address key stakeholder interests regarding the project.
“APA looks forward to continuing our long and successful record of working with communities in New South Wales to deliver major infrastructure projects,” he said.
However, community relations between APA representatives and local communities during the first stages of project planning had been choppy and early signs are that this is likely to continue.
Four community members – two from Coonamble, one from Warren and one from Tottenham area – attended the APA Group’s Annual General Meeting held online last Thursday 22 October.
One of them was local mother, farmer and business owner Rowena Macrae.
“Basically we wanted them to know that we’re still here, still opposing the pipeline and to bring to the attention of shareholders and the general public some of the anomolies in the information they’re being presented with,” Mrs Macrae said.
“For instance APA stated that they weren’t going to action the Western Slopes Pipeline but they’ve advertised for staff for the project already,” she said.
Mrs Macrae said that each representative was permitted two questions but that the format of the meeting meant that not all questions were put to the meeting and the right of reply – which was by submitting a further question – was effectively cancelled by the two question limit.
“A lot of questions we asked did not get up,” Mrs Macrae said.
“We want to know how they’re going to progress land access when there has been almost unanimous refusal of access along the length of the pipeline.”
According to Lock the Gate, there are 344 parcels of land and an estimated 127 landholders potentially impacted by the WSP project.
“What will they do when 70-year-old grandmothers say ‘over my dead body’, along with the fierce opposition of the rest of the community,” Mrs Macrae said.
“Despite the fact that most of our critical questions weren’t asked because of the type of meeting, we made them aware that nothing has changed for us and the type of resolve that they witnessed in 2018 has grown exponentially. APA need to know that before they expose their shareholders’ funds to a project that will be fiercely opposed,” said Mrs Macrae.
At this point, APA are unable to provide any firm timelines on the rollout of the WSP.
“APA is currently liaising with Santos on the next steps of the Western Slopes Pipeline (WSP),” a spokesperson for APA Group told the Coonamble Times on Monday 26 October.
“Once confirmed, we will immediately progress engagement with landholders, local communities and other stakeholders.
“We have been preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the WSP Project.
“Pending discussions with Santos, APA plans to submit the EIS to the NSW Government, who are responsible for placing the EIS on public display for community feedback,” the spokesperson said.
“We understand landholders and community members will have questions and views about the WSP project that they want considered. Our team remains available to answer any queries, and we look forward to responding to stakeholders’ interests,” they said.
“Further news on the timing of the EIS submission for the WSP will be provided as soon as available.”