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Pilliga custodians reject gas project as Santos seeks to bypass Traditional Owners

Giovanni Torre -
Gomeroi Traditional Owners voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposal for coal seam gas exploitation in the Pilliga forest at a meeting on Friday. Santos is seeking an agreement with the Gomeroi Nation to establish the Pilliga (Narrabri) coal-seam gas project, which would see 850 coal-seam gas wells in the Pilliga forest. The land involved is subject to a registered native title claim by the Gomeroi people. A pending application filed in May last year by Santos has sought the Native Title Tribunal's blessing to progress the project without approval of the Gomeroi people. Gomeroi man Raymond Weatherall said Santos should respect the vote and withdraw their application. "This is seeking permission to strip us of our rights and usurp our Country regardless of our decision,” he said. Gomeroi woman Suellyn Tighe said the Pilliga was an important cultural and spiritual site. “We refuse to allow Santos and the Morrison government to sacrifice the Gomeroi Nation and our sites for the financial benefit of a global conglomerate," she said. “We will march the streets, we will camp outside Parliament - I am calling all people across Australia to action (to) fight to ensure our vote is respected." Members of the Maritme Union of Australia met with Gomeroi people in Tamworth in the lead up to the vote, to express their support for the Gomeroi Nation’s right to oppose the proposal. MUA national Indigenous officer Thomas Mayor said the union movement stood with the Gomeroi people. “The fundamental issue here is that the rights of the Gomeroi should be respected," he said. "Santos must listen to the rightful owners of the land, the Gomeroi people. "In their language gamil means no, and the MUA says gamil too." A protest is planned for outside the Federal Court in Sydney on April 8 during the upcoming hearing, calling on Santos to withdraw the application and for all levels of government to respect Gomeroi rights. Santos declined to comment.

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