Sustain and Defend

Our Land Our Water Our Future is a collective that fights for the protection of the physical environment of NSW. It is made up of individuals and businesses who focus upon creating and implementing ecological sustainability. Ciao caught up with local activist and Our Land Our Water Our Future Coordinator, Nell Schofield, to discuss the environmental “movement” as an apolitical strive for change.

If you had five minutes with Mike Baird – what would you say?

Mike, let’s paddle out the back and have a board meeting about coal seam gas (CSG) fracking in our special areas. John Robertson, the leader of the opposition, has come out with a strong policy for no-go zones for CSG and a proposed National Gas Reserve. How can you go beyond this and protect the citizens of NSW from this toxic industry?

What is your current position on the Environment Protection Authority (EPA)? Do you think they are biased towards business?

The EPA needs more resources to carry out its functions. Fining Santos $1,500 for heavily contaminating groundwater in the Pilliga State Forest was not an adequate response. Whether this was because it was biased towards business or not remains to be proven.

Some farmers are open to a collaborative approach with coal/gas companies – particularly if there is a commercial component – is it possible to balance community interest with commercial reality?

We need to rethink what is valuable in our society. Foreign owned coal and gas companies take 84% of all profits offshore, leaving little for us but coal holes and toxic water resources. Much is still scientifically unknown about the complexity of underground aquifer connections. 

If a farmer allows fracking on their land, it is quite possible that the chemicals used in the gas extraction process will leak into neighbouring properties that do not want their water contaminated and who will not receive any compensation for the damage to their water supply. 

You can’t contain CSG impacts within fence-lines. Best not to risk it in the first place, especially when we have alternatives that need our investment.

How have you kept political agendas out of successful activism?

We are interested in policies that protect our land, water and future from inappropriate coal and gas development. It doesn’t matter which party enacts them as long as they work to protect communities across NSW. 

We want sensible laws to govern what happens in our drinking water catchments and productive farmlands. Coal and gas mining in these areas should be banned by all political parties.

Our land Our Water Our Future has hit the tipping point – where it has gone from a small community group to a large active organisation – to what do you attribute this success?

We have a wonderful team of dedicated volunteers who care about our shared environment. The Defenders is one of over 100 local community groups who have partnered with the Land Water Future campaign to make a real impact in NSW. Alone we struggle but united our voice is mighty.