Prior to the NSW Waratahs accepting sponsorship from gas company Santos, North West Protection Advocacy Patron, Maria Rickert from Pilliga Pottery, penned this letter to the Chairman of the NSW Waratahs, Roger Davis.
To say we are deeply disappointed by the decision of the Waratahs to accept this sponsorship deal is an understatement. Here is our letter.
To: NSW Waratahs
Att: Roger Davis, Chairman
Locked Bag 1222, Paddington NSW 2021
19th January 2021
Re: Santos Festival of Rugby, Narrabri
My name is Maria Rickert, I am the Patron of North West Protection Advocacy, a volunteer advocacy group based in the north-west of New South Wales. I live in the Pilliga Forest where I own and operate a family run business ‘Pilliga Pottery’. Pilliga Pottery is a functioning pottery, organic farm, tourism accommodation and café/restaurant. The property is 10,000 acres of farming land and grazing, the majority is bushland.
I am writing to you to inform you of our continuing efforts in north-west NSW to stay Gasfield Free. Over the past decade, sustained opposition has been maintained by thousands of people including Gomeroi traditional owners and farmers from Quirindi in the Liverpool Plains to the south, all the way to Moree in the north of the State, and west to Dubbo, Coonamble and beyond. All 13 surrounding Shires oppose, leaving Narrabri alone to support Santos.
Surveys show that 90% of people and upwards across the north-west region are opposed to Santos’ plans to put 850 coal seam gas wells into the Pilliga forest. These 850 wells are a “Trojan Horse” to allow entry of the coal seam gas industry into NSW. To prove this claim, already the famed Liverpool Plains black soil farming region is under immediate and direct threat via a joint venture of Santos and Carbon Minerals.
This gas project threatens the groundwater of the region and the recharge zone of the Great Artesian Basin. It also threatens the incredible biodiversity of the Pilliga forest, the largest remaining inland woodland on the east coast of Australia. As David Attenborough points out in his documentary “A Life on our Planet” we need to protect these remaining wild places as they hold the key to our survival on this planet.
Roger, it is with great sadness that I see the NSW Waratahs will attend Narrabri to play at a Santos sponsored event. The Santos CEO states:
“Events like this bring communities together, promote healthy living through sport and alleviate the social isolation that many have experienced through COVID-19 and often experience in rural and remote areas,” Mr Gallagher said.
“Bringing this event to Narrabri is all about ensuring we make a positive social contribution in the communities where we operate. These are the flow on benefits that come from a project like the Narrabri Gas Project.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. The announcement of the game has deeply hurt many people. They feel that bringing this game to Narrabri under the sponsorship of a fossil fuel company that has divided the town is a political move and is nothing short of an attempt by the company to buy social licence and further greenwash the image of fossil fuels.
Despite the polished public relations that Santos will bring to the event, it is obvious this is not a genuine sporting match, but a pure PR exercise for Santos.
I can only assume that you are not aware of the circumstances.
I understand that sponsorship is hard to come by. Community in Narrabri is working hard to bring renewable energy to town. This industry comes with jobs that are long term and sustainable. The time is upon us where we must all do our bit to bring Australia into line with Paris targets. Our gasfield free movement is incredibly diverse, could we help you find sponsorship within it that reflects the goals of a safe future and a livable planet?
I am writing to you to ask you to use any influence you may have to withdraw from this game. It is not in our communities’ best interest, it shines the NSW Waratahs in a poor light and could in fact be detrimental to the health of our community despite what the Santos CEO says.
Maria Rickert – Pilliga Pottery