The state government’s announcement yesterday to shelve further applications for onshore gas exploration acknowledges growing south-west community concerns about environmental and health risks.
It followed a public meeting at Brucknell on Tuesday night when about 70 people indicated they did not want new gasfields in their area which had been earmarked as a potential new source of energy resources.
Other recent south-west public meetings have also highlighted concerns about non-conventional methods of fracking and coal-seam gas extraction.
Energy and Resources Minister Russell Northe announced that work plan applications for onshore exploratory drilling activities would not be considered until more information was available from a water study, community views and industry impacts.
“It is clear to the Coalition government that there is community concern around prospective onshore gas exploration under currently-held licences,” he said.
“The former Labor government allocated 73 licences for coal-seam, shale and tight gas exploration and approved 23 fracking operations without any community consultation,” Mr Northe said.
“In contrast, the Coalition government is undertaking comprehensive community consultation alongside our moratorium on fracking and our hold on issuing new licences for coal-seam gas exploration.”
Ted Phillips, of the Gas Field Free West Alliance which organised the Brucknell meeting, said it was important to have communities united in opposing new exploration.
“Unless you can get a whole community together on this we will be struggling to fight the exploration companies,” he said.
The government will hold community information days in western Victoria and Gippsland during June including Casterton Town Hall on June 24 from 2pm-8pm, Terang Civic Hall on June 25 from 2pm-8pm and Colac Uniting Church hall on June 26 from 2pm-8pm.
“We want to ensure that everyone has an understanding of the facts to help them participate in discussions about a potential onshore natural gas industry in Victoria,” Mr Northe said.
Environment group Friends of the Earth applauded the government’s holding decision and said it would allow rural communities to build on their momentum to see off the threat of unconventional gas.