HUNDREDS of Gippsland farmers and locals travelled to Melbourne to present Senator Greg Barber with signatures calling for a ban on new coal and unconventional gas mining in Victoria on Sunday. In an unusual alliance that reflects an Australia-wide movement against the expansion of coal and gas mining on prime agricultural land, Gippsland farmers, business owners and local people marched alongside Melbournians from the City Square to the State Library.
The crowd of 1000, carrying yellow ‘Lock the Gate’ triangles, also brought fresh produce from their farms to highlight the value of Gippsland’s food production. Chloe Aldenhoven from the Melbourne-based group Quit Coal said the fact that people from Melbourne are also joining this fight shows how much our farms and our water are valued in Australia. The crowd, rallying under the ‘Farmers against Fracking’ banner, presented the signatures to Senator Barber, who will table them in Victorian Parliament on today. Protestors were joined by MC Rod Quantock, and speakers including potato farmer Tanya Brown and primary school teacher, daughter of dairy farmers, Kirra Boulton. Ms Boulton of Seaspray said that the spirit of cooperation and support among our Gippsland communities in fighting this threat is phenomenal.
Farmers and Gippsland locals made the trip after growing concerns that Energy Minister Kotsiras will not follow through on his promise to consult locals over the controversial proposed mining in the farming region. “Coal Seam Gas and other unconventional gas mining poses a number of risks to food and water security that are of paramount importance to the survival of farming communities,” Ms Boulton said. The rally followed a 600 strong celebration recently held in the small coastal town of Seaspray, where 98 per cent of the community voted to keep the town coal and gas free. Seaspray sheep farmer Trevor Flint, who has also worked in the gas industry, says people have every right to be concerned. “I don’t want to live in a gas field. I’ve worked in the gas industry, people don’t understand, they don’t know what they are playing with. “If my stock gets contaminated and I can’t sell it, where do we go from there, what do we do then? “We don’t want this dangerous industry here, we don’t want this anywhere in Victoria,” he said.