SOUTH-WEST farmers would have the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to conventional gas exploration on their land under a proposed plan from the state opposition.
Liberal leader Matthew Guy and Nationals head Peter Walsh revealed that if elected next year, their government would overturn the current moratorium on conventional gas exploration earlier than its 2020 re-examination date.
The coalition heads declared the move would “help put the brakes on soaring gas prices … while protecting our environment and farmland”.
Mr Guy and Mr Walsh also stated they would keep Victoria’s fracking ban in place.
The plan would include a new royalty sharing scheme that would see local landowners paid a percentage of gas sales from gas recovered on their land.
Member for South-West Coast Roma Britnell said the potential policy would still give landowners the right of veto over explorations on their property.
“This will ensure farmers who are not comfortable with gas exploration on their land have the right to say ‘no’,” Mrs Britnell said.
“This policy provides farmers with the strongest rights they have ever had over the land they own and manage.”
Environmental groups have blasted the move, saying onshore conventional gas exploration had the potential to be just as damaging to aquifers and the environment as unconventional methods such as fracking.
Sustainable Agriculture and Communities Alliance secretary Gillian Blair said the Andrews Government had behaved responsibly by putting the moratorium in place so it could “take a scientific look” at the impacts of conventional gas exploration, but the opposition’s plan threw all that away.
“Local farmers and farming communities have said they are against the possible pollution of aquifers and the covering of their farms with pipes,” Mrs Blair said.
Corangamite Shire does not back the moratorium on conventional gas exploration, while Moyne Shire voted to ask the state government to allow exploration within its boundaries as soon as the moratorium expired.