SELGA supports moratorium on unconventional gas extraction

THE SE Local Government Association will support a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction in the SE to allow comprehensive independent analysis and advice.

At its June meeting in Naracoorte on June 13 the local government body, after lifting the moratorium issue off the table from its previous meeting, decided after lengthy discussion to make its voice heard at State Government level.

One of Beach Energy's gas exploration sites just out of Penola.

One of Beach Energy's gas exploration sites just out of Penola.

Robe District Council mayor Peter Riseley was particularly vocal, saying a moratorium would allow stakeholders to gain information before gas extraction occurs.

"This is an extremely important and pertinent issue in the SE," he said, citing the vast amount of correspondence his council and others have received from the community on the issue.

"We do need this safeguard (a moratorium) in place while all other methodologies are explored."

Initially mayor Risely had moved that SELGA forward a resolution supporting a moratorium on unconventional gas exploration and operations within the SE to the SA Regional Organisation of Councils and LGA, seeking their support and requesting they lobby relevant politicians.

Kingston District Council mayor Evan Flint did not disagree completely with a moratorium but felt the best way was to appeal to the State opposition to gain majority in a parliamentary vote.

"I don't know, I know the Liberals won't support it (a moratorium) but they are still looking to have their parliamentary enquiry," he said.

"I believe we need to run something the opposition agree with, then we can sway the two independents.

"We should be doing something half the parliament supports rather than something none of them support."

Mr Flint, who was supported in his views by the Tatiara District Council, said the Labor Government would not support a moratorium anyway.

"If you go to Minister Koutsantonis with a moratorium he's not going to wear it," he said.

Grant District Council mayor Richard Sage believed a moratorium was the best move forward. 

"A parliamentary enquiry was held about the sale of the forests," he said. "Where did that get us?

"I think we should push ahead with the motion before us."

After further discussion the moratorium was dropped from this motion and delegates resolved to seek scientific information from the Federal Government's "Independent Expert Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Mining Development" on the possible impact of tight gas and shale gas exploration and development on the vital water resources of the Limestone Coast.

It also called on the Federal Government to amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to include "tight gas" and "shale gas" under the definition of mining activities where water resources are deemed to be "of national environmental significance".

Thirdly, it voted to have the State Government require shale gas, tight gas and geothermal developers obtain a water allocation before extracting water from underground aquifers, to ensure consistency for all water-using industries in the region. 

The delegates also called for legislative changes by the State Government to require exclusion zones around towns, tourism regions and private dwellings for gas and geothermal developments and to require landholder approval before entering land for gas or geothermal exploration and production.

Robe mayor Peter Risely was foreboding in his outlook on the future.

"This is still only a partial trip down a very long road," he said. "There is a huge concern in the community."

The meeting then supported a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction in the region until such time as independent analysis is undertaken, and the requests made to the State and Federal Governments have been addressed.

Mr Flint was still unsure and held firm that SELGA should approach the State Liberal Party.

"What's the fall-back if they (the State Government) say 'We're not going to support the moratorium'?" he asked.

Liberal member for Mount Barker Troy Bell spoke up to give an insight to his party's movements, which were touted as possibly in motion early this week.

"There are moves afoot from the Liberal Party starting that process quite independent of anything that comes out of today," he said.

"Looking into a parliamentary enquiry into fracking in the SE."

A move to formally encourage the opposition to pursue the parliamentary enquiry was laid on the table.

To ensure an ongoing dialogue on the issue SELGA resolved to establish a State and Local Government taskforce in the mould of a similar body on the Eyre Peninsula to examine all relevant research, community engagement and legislative matters relating to the impact of mining activity in the SE.

- This discussion came as Beach Energy, the company responsible for two exploration wells near Penola which truly kicked off this debate within the community, indicated in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange there was good exploration potential for gas and liquids at those wells (Jolly-1 and Bungaloo-1).

The company also announced it will focus on conventional gas exploration as a priority instead of the controversial hydraulic fracturing method.

Beach has also acquired a 20 per cent interest in the offshore exploration permit in the Otway Basin from 3D Oil Limited.

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