After multiple delays and an unwavering commitment from the team at For Wild Places, the first Pilliga Ultra trail run has now come and gone over this past weekend. Runners, crew members, event organisers, volunteers, sponsors and the local Pilliga community all came together to protect the Pilliga.

When the team from For Wild Places learned of the Santos owned Narrabri Gas Project, a 9-well Coal Seam Gas field with a State and Federal Government approved proposal to extend this gas field to a staggering 851 wells; they teamed up with the Wilderness Society to create a new plan to help protect the area. From here, the Pilliga Ultra was born, a 50km, 20km and 6km trail run, leaving the Pilliga Pottery and running through the wild Pilliga Forest. 

The Pilliga Ultra had amassed 150 runners, with current fundraising at $80,000 with all funds going to the Wilderness Society to help with their campaign to protect the Pilliga.

Being a sponsor of the Pilliga Ultra, Paddy Pallin sent a couple of team members out to volunteer and learn about the effects of the Narrabri Gas Project firsthand. Emma and Tayla went out on a gas field tour with the local Gomeroi people and community members of Narrabri and Coonabarabran, as well as running an aid station in the Pilliga Ultra. 

Emma has highlighted her time in the Pilliga: “My personal highlight was the Gas Field tour which was hosted by some of the Gomeroi people, the traditional custodians of the region, as well as a couple of citizen scientists in the area. As soon as we drove into the State Forest, a Santos ute drove past us with the employee giving a ‘turn around’ hand gesture, telling us to leave. Only 5 kms in, you immediately see the effects of the current gas fields with areas closed off to the public in Rehabilitation zones- some of which hide the physical damage caused by a waste water treatment dam burst back in 2014 that has contaminated and killed the ecosystem in its path.

Credit: Capucine Merlant-Pilonchery

We were given the opportunity to learn about the Gasfield Construction Process and the results each step has on the direct environment, its contribution to climate change and the catastrophic risks it places on the Great Artesian Basin- the world’s largest and deepest underground water basin. We were able to visit multiple CSG wells in the existing gasfield and got an understanding the significant damage this proposed expansion project by Santos could have if it goes ahead.

Throughout the tour we were able to witness a variety of impact zones including Private Access gates in publicly accessible locations and examples of the damage to the flora and fauna in the area. We were asked to keep an eye out for any tree guards, used in rehabilitation areas, as small animals can get stuck inside causing injury or death. 

Deb, Tara and Jamie are a part of the Gomeroi people of the region and were so open and empathetic with how they were teaching us. They opened my eyes to the complexities of their fight, including the politics within the wider Pilliga communities and the barriers that are in place for the traditional custodians of the land. We had the privilege of learning about the cultural significance of the Pilliga Forests to the Gomeroi people. We listened to stories of the way locals connect to country, and the barriers that are in place for them to maintain their connection.

Santos has filed a Future Act Determination Application with the National Native Title Tribunal, which will overpower the final say of the Gomeroi people on their Native Land Title- the last step until they can develop their current 9-well gas field to a staggering 851. The announcement of this application will happen on Friday, 8th April which will coincide with a rally being held in Sydney to protest the horrid treatment of Indigenous rights on their land.

Now to the event itself, the wet weather was a surprise and did create a bit of fun for everyone. Team PP were controlling Aid Station 3 which was the 30km checkpoint for the 50km race. It was phenomenal to see the runners in such high spirits after running 30km and another 20km to go! 

Being the first year of the race, everyone was stoked to try out the new trail with lots of great feedback and hype about the environments you get to run through.”

Credit: Capucine Merlant-Pilonchery

The Wilderness Society and the communities of the Pilliga will continue their fight to protect this land for the benefit of every person in Australia, but they need help. They need voices. They need awareness. 

If you would like to learn more: 

Donations are open for the Pilliga Ultra for another four weeks:

About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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