I wish to respond to an opinion piece by the People for the Plains printed in Narrabri’s Courier newspaper on Thursday May 28 insinuating that Siding Spring Observatory is under threat from Santos’ proposed Narrabri Gas Project.
Siding Spring, Australia’s largest optical astronomy research facility is located in the Warrumbungles near Coonabarabran about 100 km south of our activities around Narrabri, as the crow flies.
We are well aware that this important facility relies on a dark and clear sky to conduct its work and we are certainly mindful of the need for us to limit light emissions from our work.
Recently I spent the day with senior staff from the Siding Spring Observatory including Fred Watson AM, Astronomer in Charge of the Australian Astronomical Observatory and Reg Wilson, a lighting specialist and a previous Director and ongoing advisor to the International Dark-Sky Association. I was joined by Santos senior environment and operations staff and we spent the morning at the Siding Spring facilities. We then all travelled to Santos’ field operations in the afternoon and through into the evening to allow the astronomers to observe our operations at night.
I am pleased to say that there continues to be a very good spirit of cooperation between us – completely contrary to what the People for the Plains would have you believe.
The People for the Plains claim that the light from our operations will have the same impact as a reasonably small town, this is incorrect. In comparison to the light emitted from surrounding towns, we will be a small drop in a large ocean.
There are also many things that we can do when designing our facilities to minimise any impact on the Observatory’s activities and we have given a commitment to do this.
In addition, the night skies of the observatory are already protected by strict Commonwealth and NSW State Legislation, with which Santos will comply.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Observatory team as our Narrabri Gas Project is developed.
Peter Mitchley, General Manager – Santos Energy NSW