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Scared for no reason

Not happy: back, from left, affected Mirboo North resident Phil Piper, with South Gippsland Shire councillors Kieran Kennedy and David Lewis; front, from left, campaigners Kath Goller, Sam Massey and Neil Rankine.

DEPUTY Premier Peter Ryan said suggestions that an open cut mine would threaten Mirboo North were “false, irresponsible and needlessly scaring the community”.

Hundreds gathered at the Mirboo North Recreation Reserve on Sunday to listen to speakers and voice their frustration at Mantle Mining’s application for an exploration licence that would blanket the town.

The licence seeks to explore for coal and has raised concerns in the community about the prospect of an open cut mine.

Community frustration at Mr Ryan’s failure to address the electorate personally showed, with calls from the floor for a candidate to stand against the long time Gippsland South MLA, so he could be voted out of office. The call drew raucous applause from the vocal crowd.

Mr Ryan told The Star the State Government “will never allow any development which threatens the health of our agricultural land, our communities or the quality of our water”.

“Victorians have the strongest land owner protection rights in Australia and I urge all concerned residents to get the facts about what an exploration licence means, what their rights are and how communities are protected,” he said.

“The Victorian Coalition Government and I as the local member, am certain of a wonderful future for Mirboo North.”

Mr Ryan said he, and the government, would “continue to work with the Mirboo North community to look for opportunities to advance the town and help it maintain its place as one of Gippsland’s, and indeed Victoria’s, premier destinations to live, work and visit”.

At Sunday’s meeting, Chris O’Reilly of anti-coal seam gas group Lock the Gate, told the crowd quashing the application was “a battle that can be won if everyone stands together”.

“When my wife first told me about this coal exploration lease over Mirboo North, I literally couldn’t believe what I was hearing and I think my next words were, ‘Has the government gone completely mad?’” he asked.

“What upsets me the most is that our politicians are giving us spin, while in reality they are quietly and secretly selling us, often to multi-nationals, often from China or India. This is not about Labor, Liberal or the Nats.

“This is about politicians ignoring the wishes of the people who put them into power. Why is that ordinary people like us, have to take up the fight against the people we elect to represent us?”

Mr O’Reilly asked: “Where is the local member Mr (Peter) Ryan, who is elected to represent this area and paid an enormous salary to do so? Why isn’t he here today telling you why the government is condemning Mirboo North to slow annihilation?  Are we not worthy of his time?”

Mr O’Reilly told the people “this isn’t a fight we want to have, but it’s a fight we have to have”.

Campaigner Sam Massey said the “most powerful thing” people could was to lock the gate against miners, until politicians decided to protect the land and its people.

“When large numbers of people stand together in solidarity, the context in which the law operates changes significantly,” she said.

“If a single landowner stands on their own, a determined mining company will simply step around them by gaining access to neighbouring properties.

“But when hundreds of landowners in a community – or all of the landowners – refuse access, then the mining company is faced with a relatively diminishing return if they try and force access in that community.”

Speaker Chris James told the audience that 80 per cent of South Gippsland was under threat from various forms of mining.

“That’s the bad news. But there is some good news. We can fight this,” she said.

“Everything is on the table with this proposal. Where are we going to get our fresh water and our food from? Politicians do have some things to answer.”

A Department of Primary Industries (DPI) spokesperson said that Section 45 of the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act states that a mining licence holder cannot carry out any work within 100 metres of a dwelling.

“If a licence-holder wanted to carry out work within 100 metres of a dwelling, they would need to receive the consent of the owner of the land on which the dwelling is located,” he said.

“This law makes it very difficult for mining companies to carry out works in built up areas like towns.”

At this Wednesday’s South Gippsland Shire Council meeting, Cr David Lewis will lodge a notice of motion, asking council to lodge a written objection to the granting of a mining exploration licence under Mantle Mining’s application No. ELA 5428.

DPI, the Environment Protection Authority and Southern Rural Water will conduct a ‘regulator roadshow’ which will be held at Leongatha’s Dakers Centre on August 1 between 2-7pm.

 

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=4020

Posted by on Jul 24 2012. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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