On 4th August, in a Hamilton meeting with Western Victorian members of the Lock the Gate Alliance, Premier Napthine stated, “…under my premiership, there’ll be no fracking”. For the Western Vic groups it was partial assurance in a hard won meeting. Many previous efforts had been made to convey the alliance’s views directly to the premier, but this was the first real face-to-face opportunity.
The presentation of Coal and Gasfield Free Community Declarations provided a chance to let Pr Napthine know that all unconventional gas mining is unacceptable to the Alliance, but his response provided no solid guarantees. Exploration licenses remain in place across huge areas of Western Victoria and Gippsland. None of us know what will happen at the end of the Moratorium period in July 2015.
Napthine’s qualified assurance on unconventional gas leaves communities in a continued state of uncertainty. Although the Premier said that there will be nothing done to “…jeopardise our prime agricultural production, our prime agricultural land or jeopardise our environment or underground water supplies.” on his watch, this doesn’t rule out unconventional gas mining. Neither the government nor the Labor Party has made policy statements, and the November election looms large.
The coalition government represents the recent community consultations as their attempt to ascertain the views of rural communities, but those views have already been made clear in Coal and Gasfield Free Declarations across Gippsland and Western Victoria. To many it seems that the consultations were made for appearance sake, thus intensifying the sense of unease and preventing rural people from making confident decisions based on their property and business prospects.
We need to end the uncertainty. We need definitive policy statements from all parties to provide security for farmers and rural communities.
For further articles on the meeting and the Premier’s statements:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-27/past-programs/5052374 Victorian Country Hour for Tuesday 5 July, 2014