A National Native Title Tribunal has ruled against the Gomeroi people’s argument that the Narrabri Gas Project isn’t in the public’s interest, reiterating approval for mining-giant Santos to move ahead with the project.


For over a decade, the Narrabri Gas Project has been a controversial and divisive issue in NSW’s north west and it’s just moved one step closer to becoming a reality.

What is the Narrabri Gas Project?

The Santos-owned project was given the green light by the Federal Government in 2020 for up to 850 gas wells to be built across 95,000 hectares of private farmland and state forest near Narrabri. This includes the Pilliga Forest, NSW’s largest tract of semi-arid woodland with cultural significance to the Gomeroi people, where up to 1,000 hectares of land would have to be cleared in order for the project to go ahead. 

The Gomeroi people and the wider community have been rallying opposition to Santos and the project over the possible destructive environmental and cultural nature of the project for years.

In September this year, the Gomeroi people, who currently have a yet-to-be-determined native title claim over the area, argued that the project wasn’t in the public interest because of its inevitable contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, which would cause human harm. 

This was the first time the public interest argument had been coopted on the grounds of climate change, and if it worked, would set a huge precedent for the future of fossil fuel projects in Australia. 

Unfortunately, this was not the case. 

So what happened?

This week, the National Native Title Tribunal ruled against this claim, essentially finding that the public benefit of the project, in which 100% of the gas produced would be supplied to the domestic market, is greater than the Gomeroi people’s concerns about cultural and environmental change and damage. 

The tribunal has essentially reiterated Santos’ approval to move ahead with the project, under the condition Santos conducts additional cultural heritage research before starting the next stage of the project. This includes research into areas of traditional, historical, anthropological, and contemporary importance to Aboriginal people.

Although much of the project has been approved, Santos will still face hurdles including the approval and planning of a pipeline to get the gas to market.