The Conference will be held in Narrabri, the epicentre of Santos’ ambitious CSG exploration empire which covers 12% of NSW, opening up 14 regional shires to gasfields if the company is successful in obtaining approval from the NSW Government.

A panel of health and safety professionals will present the latest knowledge about illnesses and hospital admissions in gasfields areas, the possible links with chemicals known to be prevalent around CSG gas wells, compressor stations and processing centres, mental health issues related to community upheaval, multiple stresses and FIFO workers and potential value of Health Impact Assessment to fully capture the range of ways CSG projects may affect our families and communities.

“History reveals that there are often years between a community’s early warning signs of damage from dangerous environmental contaminants, and an appropriate regulatory response to them,” said Ms Christie. “This was true of lead, asbestos, and more recently PFAS fire-fighting foam. We don’t want appropriate regulation of the CSG industry to follow decades after the damage has been done to our health and lives.”

Professor Melissa Haswell, who will be speaking about “Applying Health Impact Assessment in Coal Seam Gas developments” has published reports and submissions on health concerns associated with unconventional gas mining in rural Australia.

“Today’s methods of gas mining, whether CSG in Queensland and NSW, or shale gas in WA, SA and the NT, bring a complex range of health and wellbeing concerns to people who suddenly find themselves living with a heavy industry. Health Impact Assessment (HIA) allows their voices and concerns to be heard and placed in a locally tailored framework, along with expert opinions and evidence. HIAs can call for baseline and follow measurements for health studies, and recommend ways to minimize harm and maximise any possible benefits to the community”, said Professor Haswell.

“Based on the Queensland experience, the social and economic profile of gasfields communities will undergo dramatic changes over a short time-frame, leading to stresses that must be addressed by front line health workers and State and Local Government.”

The Conference aims to inform health professionals, particularly regional doctors and hospital staff, and affected Shire Councils which need to consider the ramifications of CSG to their Strategic Plans, Community Health Plans and Management Plans.

The Conference is supported by Doctors for the Environment Australia, CWA of NSW Namoi Group, Wando Conservation and Cultural Centre, and People for the Plains.

ENDS

For further information:

Professor Melissa Haswell, School of Public Health and Social Work at Queensland University of Technology, 0415 568 536

Anna Christie, North West Protection Advocacy, 0416 077 753

This map shows the extent of Coal Seam Gas Exploration Licences in North West NSW, covering 14 regional shires. The vast majority are held by Santos. A minority held by a third party eg Hunter Gas, will form part of future Santos projects. As the diagram shows, the current Narrabri Gas Project (in maroon) forms a tiny portion of Santos’ gasfields plans for NSW. Santos has said it will not drill in the Liverpool Plains, whilst at the same time negotiating with NSW Department of Resources to renew the Liverpool Plains EL.

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