A group of Hunter residents are up-in-arms after a long-dormant pipeline project, planned to run through or just metres from their properties, announced it was only one step from beginning construction.
But the man behind the multi-million dollar gas pipeline said he wanted to work with residents to resolve their concerns.
Last week the team behind the Queensland Hunter Gas Pipeline (QHGP) told Fairfax Media it would immediately commence building the pipeline’s first stage if Santos’ Narrabri gas project was approved.
The pipeline would carry natural gas produced by the Narrabri project straight to Newcastle for use in the industrial and domestic market.
Stanhope resident Pam Austin said she was shocked to hear the QHGP project was still active after almost a decade on apparent inactivity.
“These companies come along and get approval, but a few years later everything has changed and there’s no one coming back to have a look,” she said.
“There’s a whole influx of people [to the area] who didn’t know this was going to happen, and those who did thought it had gone away.”
The pipeline was declared state critical infrastructure and granted approval in 2009 by the then Labor NSW State Government.
Ms Austin and the other residents who gathered at her home said they feared the impact the pipeline would have on the area during construction and throughout it’s lifetime of maintenance.
QHGP said they expect to complete construction of the link between Newcastle and Narrabri within 12 months of turning sod.
But the residents said they also feared the impact it would have on the region’s agriculture, environment and rural character.
“It’s not just what it’ll do to the area [during construction] but the ongoing use,” she said.
“People want to retire here, there are areas over the pipeline you can’t do anything but graze and plant shrubs.
“These [planning] documents cover concerns nicely, but the worry is when you get into the specifics of living with it long term.”
QHGP managing director Garbis Simonian struck a conciliatory position – he urged residents to contact him with their concerns.
“We’ll just dig down 1.5 metres, put it in, you wouldn’t know it was there,” he said.
“If there’s an area of heavy machinery we can put it deeper.
“If it runs through your property you’ll be compensated. We just want access to it, like high tenion [power] lines but less visible.
“And it’s gas, so if it leaks it’ll just evaporate.”
Mr Simonian said he sympathised with the residents who thought the project was on ice, but the pipeline’s approval granted the project a 10 year window to begin construction – which expires in 2019.
“It’s a major piece of infrastructure and approval is usually given for such a long period because it takes that long,” he said.
“But pipelines have run all over Australia, for thousands of kilometres since the 1970s… there’s no problem. You can plant trees, you can farm, you just can’t build a house or permanent structure.”
Mr Simonian said that, while the pipeline’s construction depended on the approval of Santos’ project, when it came time to build the QHGP’s approval was flexible enough to divert around the altered landscape.
Mr Simonian said there were only a handful of objections lodged to the pipeline when it was open for exhibition almost a decade ago. But he again urged residents to contact him with concerns on firstname.lastname@example.org