This was the moment that proves that the proposed Santos Narrabri Gas Project is opposed not just by environmental advocates, but by ordinary Australians -- farmers, bushies, Indigenous people, Knitting Nannas and more.
We've written about the Narrabri Gas Project before here at HuffPost Australia. In fact we broke the news that the proposed development of 850 coal seam gas wells in Australia's largest inland forest -- The Pilliga -- is the most protested-about project in the history of the NSW Department of Planning.
22,700 formal submissions opposing the project flooded the Planning Dept. The NSW government is currently wading through those. Meanwhile, protesters took to the streets of Sydney this Thursday.
Around 200 opponents to the project from all over NSW gathered outside a $300 a head lunch at which Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher was speaking. Their opposition was based on complex evidence, but could be reduced to three simple, provocative words: FRACK OFF, SANTOS!
Notice anything about the crowd? There were people young and old, black and white, in Akubras and in beanies. The diversity of people opposed to this project is staggering.
"We know our country and that's why I'm so pissed off and will fight for the Pilliga till my last breath," Gamilaroi woman and Walgett resident Vanessa Hickey told HuffPost Australia.
"I've got little babies growing up and if we don't stop what's going on now my little babies won't have a future. It's just sad. And Santos needs to get the frack off our country. We don't want ya. Get out!"
For some perspective on what we're talking about, take a look at this video which HuffPost Australia shot from a fire tower in the Pilliga when we travelled there in July. The scale of the place. Wow.
Shot this footage 2day of the INCREDIBLE Pilliga forest, Australia's largest dryland forest. It's threatened by a huge coal seam gas project pic.twitter.com/gP4bZxltTC— Anthony Sharwood (@antsharwood) 6 de julho de 2017
The Pilliga goes for nearly 100 kilometres in all directions, and is an island of forest in an otherwise mostly flat landscape of plains and farmland.
Santos says the project's Environmental Impact Statement means the project "can proceed safely with minimal and manageable risk to the environment".
Opponents don't buy that. They claim it will ruin the forest itself and the area's precious groundwater -- which is some of the purest Great Artesian Basin water in the whole of Australia, and is much prized by farmers.
Even gas industry financial analysts are not swayed by the allure of the project. Bruce Robertson from the Institute for Energy Economics told HuffPost Australia the project would likely not even turn a profit, and just doesn't add up.
"Why is Santos pursuing this venture? It is absolutely terrible what is happening financially. We are destroying the national wealth by pursuing this industry."