"It's disgraceful": LCPA slams Otway Basin drilling plans

The Otway Basin has been marked for drilling by the State Government, with bidding open for three new petroleum exploration licences.

It's a move that has been met with swift pushback on social media, and co-chair of the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance, Angus Ralton, has labelled the move "disgraceful".

"Our agricultural industries and land are being sacrificed for a quick buck," Mr Ralton said.

"It (the drilling) is not only going to disrupt our agricultural areas, but also raise biosecurity concerns.

"This shows that our government is in the pocket of the gas companies. There's shale in the Otway Basin. That's what it's always been about.

"Once they start drilling, you can guarantee that the next step will be fracking that shale."

The Limestone Coast Protection Alliance, or LCPA, have been leading the charge in the South East to halt fracking, having a key role in the 10 year moratorium on fracking that was passed in state parliament on 7 September 2018.

However conventional drilling for gas and petroleum is still allowed in the South East. Beach Energy currently operate Haselgrove-3, Katnook, Haselgrove-4, and will soon be operating Dombey-1. All of these sites are gas wells within the Otway Basin.

Nick McBride, the Member for MacKillop, has pledged support for the petroleum licences to be opened in the basin.

"I welcome the release of three new Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) in the region. I am hopeful that the further exploration and the discovery of gas will assist in shoring up our state's gas suppliers," Mr McBride has said in a statement.

"Importantly, I would like to see local South East-based businesses benefit from local gas discovery. I would also like to stress that approval for any activity will be subject to strict assessment and consultation."

But for Mr Ralton, the Marshall Government supporting conventional drilling is still not keeping in line with community values.

"Anyone who cares about jobs in agriculture, our reputation for being clean and green, and our exports, should be worried.

"I would encourage people to step up and defend our region against greedy companies and stakeholders, as our government is too chicken to put us first."

Troy Bell, who is the Independent member for Mount Gambier, believes that the Liberal Party should move forward with the Mining Bill debate in Parliament to let the public know where they stand.

"What I'm concerned about is the rights of primary producers versus the rights of mining companies," Mr Bell said.

"I think that with the Mining Bill, they should be treated equally in legislation."

Mr Bell would also like to assure the community that fracking would not be possible with the current moratorium, and that there's "years" between a company taking up an expression of interest for a land allotment, to physically drilling for oil.

Merilyn Paxton, a spokesperson for the LCPA, is still concerned over the possibility of petroleum exploration, based on what has already happened at the Cooper Basin.

"It is of no comfort to us that the State Government has partnered with GISERA (Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance) to carry out 'independent research' to better inform community perceptions about gas exploration, development and production," Ms Paxton said in a statement.

"GISERA is funded by the gas industry, and therefore their research cannot be independent.

"The GISERA National Research Advisory Committee has representatives from CSIRO and partners, including Australia Pacific LNG, Origin Energy, QGC, Santos and the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

"They are not asking us what we think, and we are all pretty well informed about the dangers of gas mining, so to talk to them will simply be a waste of time.

"We asked them to include South East stakeholders on their committee for this research, but to no avail it seems."