Anti-unconventional gas campaigner, Marg Thomas of Mirboo North, had plenty of support last week when she called on the council to make good on a June 2012 shire policy setting, to keep the community informed about developments.
WE’VE heard it mentioned several times in the past month.
First from the not so independent, but still completely credible source of Tim O’Brien, the operations manager at Lakes Oil near Sale.
But last Wednesday night, the South Gippsland Shire Council also weighed in with its own doubts about the potential for an unconventional gas industry to ever be established in this area.
There’s simply no commercially winnable supplies of coal seam gas, shale gas or tight gas in this area… or so they say!
Mr O’Brien was the first to blow the whistle on the issue.
“There are exploration licences covering those areas but we don’t believe there are any commercial quantities in South Gippsland and the sooner the government comes out and says so, the better for everyone,” Mr O’Brien said recently.
And he has encouraged the government to put together the research that proves there’s little or no unconventional gas here.
Cr Andrew McEwen added weight to those doubts, at a council meeting last week, saying it was his information also that the area didn’t have commercially viable resources.
“It’s my information that only half of the area has gas potential and not much potential at that,” Cr McEwen said.
He is, however, very sympathetic about the concerns of others and the dangers that exist from unconventional gas mining.
“Concern about this issue has got a large constituency, which covers all groups; left, right and green, farmers and general community members.
“I think we need to be adopting the precautionary principle that they have adopted in NSW. Until it is proven to be safe it shouldn’t be allowed to go ahead.
“There is enough peer-reviewed science available now to confirm the dangers that exist,” he said, saying the State Government needed to be assembling that information from the USA and elsewhere.
“My concern is that by declaring a moratorium until July 2015, they have tried to take it out of consideration before the next election and both the Labor Party and the Coalition is hoping they don’t have to comment on it.”
Cr McEwen said that in the light of their being little or no commercially viable supplies of unconventional gas in the area, he intended to move a motion calling on the State Government to rule out fracking and the development of Coal Seam Gas and other forms of unconventional gas in the South Gippsland area.
“A survey of approximately 15 per cent of the shire population, which is a credible sample, has consistently come back as being 95 to 97 per cent against coal seam gas in this community.”
His comments were prompted by the public presentation provided by Mirboo North anti-CSG campaigner, Marg Thomas, in which she urged the shire to fulfil its own policy setting, of June 27, 2012,
1. Write to the Victorian State Government calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas exploration and extraction/mining in South Gippsland pending full public disclosure of all process chemicals used and all other features of coal seam gas exploration/mining being shown to be safe.
2. Seek further information on regulations and controls in place in respect of coal seam gas exploration and extraction in the state of Victoria and how those regulations and controls compare to other states where coal seam gas exploration and operations are in progress.
3. Ensure the community is kept up to date with all relevant information as it becomes available through our website, council reports and contact with concerned community groups and Bass Coast Council.
4. That council opposes coal seam gas exploration or mining/extraction on land it owns or manages until it is shown to be safe.”
Ms Thomas was especially concerned to see that the council used its own website, reports and publications, including ‘South Gippsland Matters’ to keep the community informed of “all relevant information as it becomes available” and also to demonstrate the local opposition to CSG.
“This has not been done, although the Bass Coast Shire has done it. It’s not just enough to say we support what they have done,” Ms Thomas said.
She said that a number of communities in the shire had already declared their areas ‘CSG Free’ and Koonwarra would be the next to join them with a declaration.
“I call on council to make good on the promise it made at its meeting on June 27, 2012.”
The council’s director of corporate services June Ernst said the shire was waiting for the “outcome of the moratorium” before reporting on CSG issues on the website and in South Gippsland Matters but Ms Thomas said this approach wasn’t in line with the council’s own policy.
Cr Kieran Kennedy said the council shouldn’t wait until July 2015 to take action.
He noted that while there was a moratorium on fracking, the ban on the use of BTEX chemicals was ongoing.
Acting mayor, Cr Jeanette Harding, said it was appropriate that the council provide an update, given that the majority of people in South Gippsland feel strongly about the unconventional gas issue.