MORE than 450 people united in Poowong on Sunday to mark the declaration of the first CSG free community in Victoria.
Event-goers made a human sign over 50 metres long on the Poowong Recreation Reserve, spelling out ‘WE R CSG FREE’, while a Cessna Bird Dog plane flew from Melbourne to photograph the spectacle from the sky.
“This is a simple message to the gas miners in their faraway offices: don’t come to Gippsland,” said event organiser Ursula Alquier.
“Our precious water, our abundant agricultural industries and our way of life are all far too important for us to be interested in a risky and invasive industry like coal mining or coal seam gas.”
The event was held in response to miners seeking licences to explore for coal seam gas in South Gippsland.
Anti-CSG group Lock the Gate Gippsland has major concerns for the region’s future after mining chief’s Gina Rinehart’s (Hancock Prospecting P/L) multimillion dollar investment in Gippsland based company Lakes Oil.
Co-founder of Lock the Gate Gippsland, Richard Kickbush, said the recent investment in Lakes Oil will give the company a bigger war chest to fight protestors.
“This may increase their ability to ‘push through’ with mining development, in spite of the community’s reservations and safety concerns still surrounding on-shore gas acquisition,” he said.
Lakes Oil chairman Rob Annells said the capital raised through the Hancock Prospecting P/L investment would enable Lakes to progress its planned oil and gas activities.
Mr Annells does not believe in the ad hoc fracturing of land, be it in Gippsland or anywhere in Australia.
“The Federal Government has some recommendations and the State Government is looking at those and will hopefully soon release guidelines, which we will be happy to fall in line with,” he said.
“We are the only state that has a moratorium at the moment and all the publicity that I have seen talks about coal seam gas, but we are not in the CSG business.
“We drill way deeper than CSG and the water table. Scientifically we can prove we have no effect on water.
“I know there are some people who are not keen on development in any shape or form, but what we have is an important new resource for Victoria.
“The bottom line is we have to develop these sorts of energy resources, but let’s do it properly, where everybody is happy.”
The Poowong event was attended by concerned residents from Poowong and people from as far as Wonthaggi and Sale.
While attendees enjoyed a barbeque and live music, volunteers were on hand to discuss concerns landholders held regarding their rights.
The crowds were also wowed with an appearance by Lock the Gate Alliance founder Drew Hutton who gave a rousing speech and travelled all the way from his Queensland base.
“This industry is like a tsunami sweeping all over the country,” he said.
“This isn’t a not-in-my-backyard campaign. This is in everyone’s backyard, right across the country, on some of the best farming land in the country.”
South Gippsland Shire Council mayor Cr Kieran Kennedy addressed the crowd, highlighting the fact South Gippsland is now home to Victoria’s first CSG free community.
Over 50 volunteers from the town and surrounding areas helped to organise the event, a strong show of community strength.
“This fantastic day was just the beginning,” Ms Alquier said.
“We’ve had people from all over South Gippsland, Bass Coast, Wellington and Baw Baw shires come along today and show their opposition to this destructive industry.
“These mining companies might have the money to run advertising campaigns and pay-off politicians, but we’ve got social capital, a strong community and friends across the region and, together, we are stronger.”
Mr Kickbush said CSG is a form of unconventional gas.
“Gas deposits are classified as conventional if they are contained in porous reservoirs, often in limestone or sandstone, which have interconnected spaces that allow the gas to flow freely in the rock and through well boreholes,” he said.
“Unconventional reserves are situated in rocks of low permeability, which makes the gas difficult to access. This includes shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas.
“A company that is claiming to search for unconventional gas and yet also claim to not be interested in CSG is deliberately trying to mislead the public through a misuse of these definitions.
“Anywhere that a mining company is proposing activity, especially drilling operations, on prime agricultural land is a source of concern.
“There is still no evidence to demonstrate that they can guarantee the continued integrity of wells passing through aquifers over a long period of time, or even in the short term.”
Mr Kickbush said current regulations allow a company that has been granted an exploration licence to change the intended target of their exploration, without the need to notify or consult the public.
“This means any exploration licence granted can be used as a ‘bait and switch’ scenario, where they may substitute other mining targets after the original licence is granted. We don’t see any reason to trust these companies,” he said.
“Mining companies have been shown in the past to have a greater influence on the government than the community it governs.
“Unfortunately, we would expect the same thing here, given the potential billions that Gippsland’s resources are worth to someone like Rinehart.
“It is important to also realise that the current moratorium is only a stop gap designed to lull a concerned public into apathy. “ It will cease when the Standing Council on Energy and Resources (SCER) final report is delivered.
“While still only an advisory, the SCER’s draft framework shows that (the moratorium) is nothing more than a self-created licence by a government intent on bulldozing its own people.”
Mr Kickbush said Lock the Gate Gippsland will continue to maintain there is not enough regulation or independent research regarding the potential damage of CSG mining on agricultural land, or on the aquifers Gippsland relies on.
“We have already seen issues in both Queensland and New South Wales that should be cause for alarm,” he said.
“We are simply asking for a halt to all further exploration and production until the mining companies can demonstrate to the community that this will not be the biggest mistake to ever befall Gippsland.”
Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=6492