For the past three years I have chaired the independent Stakeholder Advisory Panel overseeing the Victorian Gas Program’s onshore conventional gas studies.

After fracking was banned in 2017, the Victorian government wanted to understand two things about onshore conventional gas (which doesn’t need fracking): what’s the potential for new discoveries and what are the risks, benefits and impacts of allowing it to be developed.

The panel includes diverse and passionate representatives from farming, environmental, industry, community and local government backgrounds. The eight panel members care deeply about their role and about advocating strongly for the people they represent.

The panel and I took a close and careful look into the geoscientific, technical and environmental research to better understand Victoria’s undiscovered onshore conventional gas resources.

We found a high likelihood of conventional gas onshore in South West Victoria and to a lesser extent in Gippsland. If developed, this gas would improve energy security while Victoria transitions to a low carbon economy.

The science told us that a responsible and well-regulated onshore conventional gas industry would not risk Victoria’s groundwater supplies or agricultural production. It could create a boost to regional jobs, economies and communities.

Panel members did not always agree with each other or arrive at a consensus. But they agreed with the science and the integrity of the processes followed.

The panel provided its advice to the Minister for Resources in early 2020. The Victorian government announced on 17 March 2020 its intention for an orderly restart of the onshore conventional gas industry in Victoria.

Dr Amanda Caples, Victoria’s Lead Scientist.