Government launches fracking consultation process

THE Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) and the Lock the Gate anti-fracking alliance have welcomed the state government’s launch yesterday of a community consultation process on the development of onshore natural gas, including the use of the controversial fracking mining technique.

The statewide community consultation process will include consultations in the south-west. The dates for regional discussions will be released next month.

Yesterday’s launch of the consultation process comes as a series of meetings to build up opposition against fracking are held throughout the south-west.

Meetings were held this week in Woolsthorpe and Byaduk and further meetings, organised with the help of the Lock the Gate alliance, will be held at Portland on May 14, Warrnambool on May 15, Panmure on May 20 and Brucknell on May 29. 

Moyne Shire Council has also joined the opposition to fracking, voting at its April meeting to seek the support of the Great South Coast (GSC) Group of councils to oppose the mining of coal seam, tight and shale oil gases in the south-west.

The gases are extracted using fracking, which injects water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into a bore to create small fractures in underground rock to release gases held there.

Moyne also called for the GSC to lobby all state political parties in the lead-up to this year’s state election to commit to a ban on the exploration and extraction of coal seam, tight and shale oil gases. 

VFF land management committee chairman Gerald Leach said the community consultation was welcome because Victorian farmers had “legitimate concerns about the potential impacts from onshore gas on the environment, and especially ground and surface water”.

Lock the Gate Victorian coordinator Chloe Aldenhoven said many communities had begun to fear that onshore gas exploration, which uses fracking, would be forced on them.

Victorian Energy and Resources Minister Russell North said the community consultation would provide factual information and an opportunity to discuss the possible development of onshore natural gas. 

The government also yesterday launched a website, naturalgasinfo.vic.gov.au, as part of the consultation process. 

The website will feature details of forthcoming meetings as well as information about onshore natural gas, landholders’ rights, the Victorian regulatory system and scientific water studies. 

The Victorian government has imposed a moratorium on new exploration licences for onshore natural gas and fracking until at least July 2015 while the community consultation and independent water studies are carried out.

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