ANTI-coal seam gas and unconventional onshore gas campaigners impatiently clicked ‘send and receive’ on their emails last week waiting for a final decision on whether the State Government would support the industry.
In the end, all they got was an announcement that a decision had been delayed.
The Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North and Shut the Gate Poowong groups, which have been campaigning against the industry and specifically exploration licences over the district, had prepared a number of posters and placards for a scheduled photoshoot in Berrys Creek.
There was ‘Dan’s the man’ and ‘Thank you’ signs, along with ‘Pathetic’, ‘Food not filth’ and others.
In the end, the signs were put away as the news filtered through – ‘an announcement of no announcement’, and the old signs brought out again.
There was an air of disappointment that no decision was made, but local South Gippsland groups remain resolute in calling for a permanent ban on all onshore gas mining.
“I think the government has wimped out of making a decision,” Marg Lynn of Berrys Creek said.
“Perhaps it’s because of interest in mining, or perhaps it’s other moral issues, but you would think a ban would be a positive announcement for rural Victoria.”
Wendy Davis of Poowong agreed.
“The government has taken the appointment of the new minister as a good excuse to procrastinate,” she said.
“It’s not going to stop our campaign. We’ve been waiting so long – what’s a few more months?
“We won’t give up, not until we get a final decision, and even then, only if it’s the right one!”
New minister delays
The new minister for Industry and Employment, and Resources, Wade Noonan announced he would make a decision in August when parliament resumes.
Meanwhile the moratorium remains in place.
“The Andrews Labor Government has been considering the findings and recommendations from the Parliamentary Inquiry into unconventional gas in Victoria, which received more than 1800 submissions,” Mr Noonan said.
“I appreciate that there are significant concerns within the Victorian community about unconventional gas exploration and the extraction methods used.
“As the new Minister for Resources, I take these issues seriously and therefore will take more time to meet with industry, farmers and other community representatives.”
Farmers welcome ban extension
THE Victorian Farmers Federation said it welcomed the temporary ban on onshore unconventional gas mining.
“The VFF is pleased that Minister Noonan isn’t rushing into a decision on this issue without fully understanding the nature of the moratorium and the potential impacts of onshore gas mining on agricultural land,” VFF Land Management Committee Chair Gerald Leach said.
“Our members have repeatedly told us their greatest fear is that onshore gas developments could put at risk the state’s precious groundwater reserves.”
The VFF, in its submission to the State Government’s Unconventional Gas Inquiry last year, argued that the moratorium on all exploration and extraction of onshore gas should be in place until 2020.
But Mr Leach said the moratorium needs to remain until the Victorian Government can guarantee that the potential environmental risks can be managed.