Cr Andrew McEwen fired up the public gallery at a recent South Gippsland Shire Council meeting, when he effectively called on the shire to support a policy of declaring the South Gippsland CSG Free. m024314
LOCAL supporters of the campaign against unconventional gas mining and exploration in South Gippsland have objected to the claims that their “fight” turned “feral” at a recent South Gippsland Shire Council meeting.
The offending words appeared in a front-page heading in last week’s South Gippsland Sentinel Times and members Poowong’s Lock the Gate Alliance, Hannah Alquier and Wendy Davis, have insisted on the right of reply.
“We strongly object to the words fight and feral on the front page. The dictionary refers to the word feral as “undomesticated, savage, wild” which we are not,” they said.
There is also a colloquial meaning for feral which refers to environmentalists who have stopped brushing their hair or washing, possibly a reference to the ‘Friends of the Earth’ origins of the Lock the Gate movement.
The local supporters of Lock the Gate say, however, that they are decent local folk and that their members and supporters represent a broad cross-section of the community.
“The newspaper has insulted by inference our organisation and the people supporting us,” said Ms Alquier and Ms Davis this week.
“The word fight also has connotations of aggression and violence, which are inflammatory,” they claimed.
“In relation to “unseemly carry-on”, there were about six gallery visitors from a total of 30 or so who did call out and heckle the councillors.
“This behaviour came about because of the reasons given by the councillors for voting against the B2 motion.”
The motion was as follows:
1. Endorse a policy of seeking exemption from the State Government for Coal Seam Gas (CSG) and coal mining and exploration in South Gippsland Shire;
2. Write to all political parties seeking a permanent exclusion of South Gippsland Shire from CSG fracking and coal exploration and mining;
3. Incorporates under advocacy in its annual council plan its opposition to CSG and fracking and its position to seek an exemption from CSG exploration and mining in the high quality agricultural area in South Gippsland; and
4. Develop an active communication strategy to publicise and advocate council’s position.”
The motion was lost with Crs McEwen, Hill and Kennedy voting for and Crs Brunt, Newton, Fawcett, Harding and Davies against.
According to Ms Alquier and Davis, “all no-voters expressed their support of no CSG for Gippsland, but used as their reasons for a no-vote, illogical and short-sighted statements (particularly the councillor who misread the motion)”.
Although councillors who voted against the motion at the meeting on October 22 said later that it was poorly worded, the main argument expressed by the no-voters at the time was that the timing for such a motion was wrong.
“We need to do at a time when it will have the most impact,” said the Mayor Cr Jim Fawcett.
“We do have a moratorium (in place until July 2015)… and the reports are yet to be completed. Yes we have an election but this is not an issue because both parties have the same views. I’m not voting for the motion because nothing has changed.
“A yapping dog gets brief attention but we have to be careful in our communications with the State Government in order to get the best results,” he said.
The campaigners did however offer some explanation for the behaviour of a few of their number.
“The no-CSG group was not well versed in Council Meeting procedure and was not told what was expected regarding vocalisation. We are now aware,” they said.
“This incident has been repeated several times through the three pages covering the CSG story, an exaggeration of the point surely.”
They also wished to address the queries offered by Cr Lorraine Brunt and others, that the declaration of Poowong as a CSG Free zone might not be supported.
“How legitimate a reflection of public opinion is the declaration of Poowong as CSG Free given that not all sides of the debate were allowed to be canvassed at lead-up community meetings. This statement is totally untrue.
“At information evenings, all attendees are invited and encouraged to have a say, address the speakers, ask any questions they like.
“Many times representatives from government departments and mining corporations have been invited to attend but have never accepted.
“Of course because of the overwhelming evidence against CSG mining, they have little to back their argument that there are no risks associated with the industry as the peer-reviewed evidence of major issues continues to mount.
“It is a documented fact that after door-knocking approximately 500 homes in post code 3988 (including Poowong), asking the question “Do you want to declare Poowong coal and coal seam gas free?” yes/no/unsure, the response was an overwhelming 95% ‘yes’.
“This was followed by a celebration in the township on a very hot summer day of 39 degree heat, when 450 local people gathered to form a human sign saying “CSG Free” – now if this isn’t a “legitimate reflection of public opinion” – what is?
“And this method of declaring a community CSG Free is repeated every time an information evening results in a “hands up if you want your community CSG Free” ‘Yes’ is the majority response.
“The Lock The Gate and CSG Free community groups consist of ordinary people – mums and dads, grannies, farmers, business people, townies and tree-changers – everyone is welcome. There is a core group of hard-working, dedicated volunteers who give countless hours (of course not paid) to this cause because they know how devastated our state and our communities would be if this noxious industry is allowed to invade us here.”