There has been a flurry of activity on social media this week trying to accuse gas pipeline survey workers of trespass and suggesting police were considering arresting them.
This is another example where protesters and other activists tweet first and ask questions later.
All too often, activists fire off erroneous and sometimes outrageous claims, comforted by the knowledge that their statements are rarely put to test. This was again the situation in commentary on a confrontation near Coonamble, in north-western NSW.
The truth in the Coonamble situation is that the survey workers were properly authorised by the NSW Government.
The survey workers in question are contracted to pipeline operator APA Group, which is undertaking detailed survey work to determine the best route for a proposed gas pipeline to connect the proposed Narrabri coal-seam gas field with the East Coast gas network.
This project is a designated a ‘Significant Development’ under NSW Planning guidelines. It is a project of major significance in an East Coast gas market which is crying out for new sources of supply.
Activists were quick to accuse the workers of trespass – and in doing so, give encouragement to protesters who police had to instruct to ‘stand aside’ to defuse what could have developed into unlawful detainment of the workers.
All too often activists are fond of labelling gas industry companies as bullies. However, in truth, it is more often the case that the activists are the bullies – as was the case in Coonamble this week.
Protesters deliberately blocked the path of the survey workers so that they were unable to leave the area. They were aggressive, abusive and wrong.
In contrast to the protester accusations, the workers were entitled to do their work and were properly authorised.
Some news reporting was also in error, too readily republishing the claims of the activists instead of presenting an impartial, factual account of what took place outside Coonamble.
It will be a welcome development if protesters in future apply the same standards of conduct to themselves as they expect from company representatives doing their properly authorised work.