I wish to respond to an article printed in The Land on Thursday August 27 that quoted a number of people insinuating that companies, including Santos, force their way onto private land.

This is not the case. Santos has always been very clear that we will only drill wells on private land where the landholder is happy to host our work.

It’s this simple – if a landholder doesn’t want us to drill wells on their land, we will not go there.

In 2014 we signed the Agreed Principles of Land Access with AGL, NSW Farmers, the NSW Irrigators Council and Cotton Australia, to publicly reiterate this commitment to landholders.

When a landholder agrees to host Santos’ activities, we make sure the partnership is financially beneficial to them and our work fits in with their current activities and lifestyle. We are proud of the lasting relationships we have formed with landholders across the country over the past 60 years. In NSW, more than 85% of the landholders within our proposed project area near Narrabri have said they support Santos’ work.

In Queensland, where Santos’ operations are far more advanced, we have more than 850 agreements in place with more than 300 landowners. In independent annual surveys run by Nielsen Australia, 92% of our landholders said that they were given enough time to prepare, understand and negotiate their land access agreements and would welcome us back onto their properties. This is strong proof that we treat landholders with respect and that CSG and agriculture can and do co-exist.

Another point I want to address is a quote from Sally Hunter incorrectly saying that Santos will only employ 17 people locally once the Narrabri Gas Project is operational. This is completely untrue.  Currently there are more than 60 people employed by Santos working on the Narrabri Gas Project – there are certainly more than 17 people working directly for Santos in Narrabri today.

Once approved the Narrabri Gas Project will be a significantly larger project and will employ more than 1200 people during construction and 200 people on an ongoing basis in the operational phase. We will continue to employ local people from the Narrabri area and use local suppliers whenever possible.

The project is also expected to generate a number of indirect employment opportunities. These jobs would include engineering and management services, transportation, operational health and safety and various business services.

The realisation of a project the scale of the Narrabri Gas Project and the development of what is essentially a new industry in town cannot fail to bring with it significant employment and economic benefits. It is this type of diversity in industry and employment that allows rural towns to prosper.

Peter Mitchley, General Manager – Santos Energy NSW