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Maleny Hosts Premier Of Environmental Doco

Image from Pilliga Rising Documentary.  Image Supplied 

Maleny has been selected to host the Queensland premier of environmental documentary Pilliga Rising.

The doco, commissioned by The Wilderness Society and produced by award-winning Sunshine Coast Hinterland production company, Balangara Films, will screen at Maleny Community Centre on the evening of Thursday August 22.

Image from Pilliga Rising Documentary.  Image Supplied 

The film has been produced in response to the proposed Narrabri coal seam gas project in northwest New South Wales.

Santos, the oil and gas corporation in charge of the project, plan to drill 850 wells through the Great Artesian Basin – one of the largest underground freshwater reservoirs in the world, which flows beneath the Pilliga. The project is still under assessment and Santos is pushing for approval.

Image from Pilliga Rising Documentary.  Image Supplied 

The 40 minute documentary is now set to have its first public screening in Queensland and local residents in the Glasshouse Mountains and Maleny region are in for a real treat.

"Pilliga Rising is the mesmerising, heartbreaking, exhilarating tale of a community unified in defence of land and livelihood. See it - and see it soon.” – Elizabeth Farrelly PhD, Columnist, Sydney Morning Herald.

Film director, Mark Pearce moved to Maleny with his wife in July 2018.

Mr Pearce has produced over 20 social impact nature documentaries, which he describes as "consciousness-in-action" films.

“There have been many gas films produced over the last decade; some have used humour to communicate their message, others drama,” he said.

“The film I sensed would impact people at a higher level of consciousness was one that uses character intimacy and meaningful exploration of their obligation to community, set against the naturalistic beauty of the environment.

Image from Pilliga Rising Documentary.  Image Supplied 

“Pilliga Rising is a film that celebrates the backbone of Australian communities – and this is what is truly at stake if coal seam gas comes to town. If there’s one thing viewers will take away from this story, it’s the understanding that when you’re in the trenches dealing with the coal seam gas cartel, even if you win, life will never be the same.”

The film depicts the inspirational true story of how four community members from small towns across northwest New South Wales rise up against a proposed coal seam gas-field in the Pilliga forest.

A key character is German-potter, Maria Rickert. As a German backpacker, Ms Rickert settled in the Pilliga region over thirty years ago with a dream to create a loyal family business and establish European art and culture in the Australian bush.

Today, her off-grid home business, ‘Pilliga Pottery’, is shared with volunteers and community members, and is a spiritual heartland for every person that lives there.

Image from Pilliga Rising Documentary.  Image Supplied 

But if the water shortages continue and the gas project is permitted, the Rickert family will lose all they have accomplished.

“The people in the industry are hurting us by forcing something on the nature. People who love the Pilliga would never ever trade it in for money.” Ms Rickert said.

Narrabri retiree, Tony Pickard has been fighting against the gas companies since 2006. His story highlights the citizen science work he’s done over the years to expose the toxic spills during the exploration process.

“The trees here [in the Pilliga forest] are the important thing that holds this whole system together. They put their roots down through the clay barrier and allow the water to enter [the Great Artesian Basin] deeper down. They are the lungs of the area. We keep knocking it all down we’re not going to have any lungs left,” Mr. Pickard said.

Along with the critical groundwater issues, farming and food security is a major talking point in the documentary.

Farmer, and father-of-five children, Adam Macrae is up against the Australian Pipeline Authority (APA) Group who want to connect the gas at the Moomba pipeline by building an open-trench pipeline through his farm.

“In 2016, we grew ten and a half million serves of chickpeas,” Mr Macrae said.

“And we grew enough barley to play a direct role in the production of five and a half-million serves of beef – and that was working the farm one-day a week. If we can do that on our little patch, what’s the region doing in that macro-economic space?”

Paris Norton, a young Gamilaroi multimedia artist, who is the fourth main character said, “The magic of the Pilliga is that everything is in a lovely balance and that’s why it works for animals, people, farmers, for practicing culture and communities to live a bit more sustainably here.”

Lock The Gate Alliance (LTGA) is hosting the screening in Maleny to create a deeper conversation around the vital environmental values of the Northern Sunshine Coast hinterland, where coal exploration permits still exist.

LTGA Brisbane coordinator, Ellie Smith has been actively engaged to protect farm lands and communities across Queensland who face similar issues to those living in northwest New South Wales.

“To bring gas-fields to the north west of NSW is not sustainable for our farmers, local businesses, and Indigenous communities,” she said.

“And it’s certainly not sustainable for managing the land and all the magnificent wildlife that live there. Pilliga Rising showcases how community members are united to look after the environment, and Queenslanders will be inspired by this beautiful film to bind together and protect our own backyard.”

The Maleny screening will feature:

- Welcome drinks and nibbles accompanied by music from Pantastic Steel Band. The Maleny Community Centre will run a cash bar between 6 and 6:30 before the film starts.

- Film screening "Pilliga Rising" on widescreen cinema projection with surround sound.

- Q&A with Maleny producer Mark Pearce from Balangara Films hosted by Steven Lang.

Tickets: $10 single ticket donation. $80 Group of 10 – donation of $8 each. All donations to Lock the Gate Alliance will help cover the cost of the event.

Book your ticket to Pilliga Rising