PETROLEUM exploration and production company Beach Energy has hit back at speculation its contractors could enter farming properties without permission.
Beach holds a licence to explore gas reserves in an extensive area from the outskirts of Warrnambool to Curdievale, Purnim and the coast.
Company officials have been contacting property owners and contractors are preparing to start seismic testing this month, but several landholders are concerned about possible implications.
“Beach would never undertake work on landholders’ properties without consent,” a company representative told The Standard.
“Beach has been working with dozens of landholders to consult and develop mutually-agreed work plans in the area where the work will be undertaken.
“If landholders received notification and no follow-up communication, their properties are not within the area Beach wishes to undertake activities. If consent is not granted, Beach will not undertake activity on that land. Beach Energy places the highest priority on the safety of its workers, landholders, the community and the environment.”
The company said it had been given state government permission to undertake seismic mapping of sub-surface geology within its permits area in the south-west.
Testing will begin for a three-week period in the Panmure, Garvoc, Laang, Taroon, Ecklin South, Ayrford, Naringal East, Brucknell and Nullawarre North areas.
The company has advised there may be increased traffic in the area as 15 four-wheel-drive utes and four slow-moving trucks cross roads at existing gateways. Speed restrictions are also likely from 7am to 7pm during the period.
Property holder Debbie Dalziel of Brucknell told The Standard landowners had been misled into believing they had no rights in relation to mining exploration on their properties.
“In fact, according to the public interest legal service, Victorian Environment Defenders Office, farmers can deny access to exploration companies,” she said.
“The companies can then take landowners to VCAT to negotiate an access agreement, but this rarely occurs due to excessive costs to the companies.”
Ms Dalziel said she was also concerned about ambiguous terminology and lack of transparency by mining interests regarding their aspirations for onshore gas developments in the south-west.
She said one consultant had said the survey was for conventional gas reserves, but company managing director Reg Nelson had clearly indicated ambitions of finding unconventional gas reserves through fracking if the government moratorium was lifted.
“What are our rights as landholders, businesses and residents relying on clean, plentiful water supplies, healthy soils and resources?” Ms Dalziel asked.
“What are the potential risks of onshore gas developments? Let’s talk.”