New group in fight against coal seam gas exploration

THE fight against unconventional gas exploration in the south-west is stepping up as a new group plans to protest at a government open day next week.

The first community open day on onshore natural gas will be held at Casterton next Tuesday, followed by similar events at Terang and Colac. Independent consultants will seek community feedback in regions where there is a prospect of natural gas exploration.

The government has a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, until July 2015 at the earliest. It has also announced a hold on work plan approvals for onshore gas exploration until more information is available, including evidence from a water study, community views and industry impacts.

The new No Gasfields Lower Glenelg (NGLG) action group will take its concerns to the Casterton meeting after preliminary results of a doorknock survey in the Dartmoor area found “overwhelming opposition” to fracking.

NGLG has joined an Australia-wide campaign overseen by the Lock the Gate Alliance against unconventional gas exploration.

Its aim is to raise awareness that the district has been earmarked as an exploration site for underground shale gas. 

Group spokesman Michael Greenham said shale gas mining was of huge concern with possible impacts including water quality and the health of people, livestock and wildlife.

“Mining could pollute our water and air, affecting not just farms but our fragile environment, our tourism industry and in turn the economy,” Mr Greenham said. “Locals aren’t saying ‘not in my backyard’ — they are saying ‘not in anyone’s backyard’.”

Mr Greenham said while the government had called a temporary halt on mining exploration, it was not a time to be complacent.

He said the group would take its survey results to the Casterton event and voice its objection to fracking.

“It is critical our politicians take account of our views and state their long-term position before the election in November.”

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) last week called on the government to extend the moratorium for at least another term of government.

The peak farming body will also demand all political parties and candidates declare their position on the development of the state’s onshore gas reserves before the November 29 state election.

It has called for farmers to have a right of veto over mining activities on their land and is seeking compensation for all mining and petroleum activities that are conducted.

The open days will be held at the Casterton Town Hall on Tuesday, June 24, Terang’s Civic Hall Rose Room on Wednesday, June 25 and at Colac’s Uniting Church Hall on Thursday, June 26. 

They will all run from 2-8pm.

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