Farmers relieved at political support for fracking ban

Wednesday 8 February 2017

VICTORIA’S peak farmer group has praised both the State Government and Opposition for putting the interests of landholders above politics by not risking prime agricultural resources for short term gains by gas and mining companies.

The Government’s
Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2016 is widely expected to pass Parliament with cross-party support and would see a permanent ban on the exploration and development of all onshore unconventional gas in Victoria and a five year extension on the ban on conventional onshore gas development.

The Victorian Farmers Federation welcomed the move as a victory for farmers after last year praising the Government’s commitment
to ensuring farm land was protected from gas exploration until more research into potential impacts had been conducted.

“This is a great outcome for our farmers because the true environmental impact of onshore gas mining is still unknown,” VFF President David Jochinke said..

“Agriculture is a vital resource in Victoria, considering we are the nation’s biggest food and fibre exporter ($11.9 billion in 2015-16), so it’s a relief to know that both sides recognise the importance of agriculture to our State’s future.

Victoria has precious groundwater reserves, and without hard scientific evidence that show the risks of onshore gas development can be properly managed, those reserves shouldn’t be put at risk.”

A recent VFF survey showed members’ greatest concern was the potential for cross-contamination of aquifers as a result of drilling for gas, while others feared it would cause financial or environmental harm.

Mr Jochinke said the farmer group still needed answers on the impacts of onshore gas on aquifers.

“There are still a lot of questions that we hope research will clear up over the next few years,” he said.

“Thing such as who would monitor the wells after the gas reserves are exhausted to ensure the concrete lining doesn’t crack and lead to saline aquifers cross-contaminating fresh ones.”

The onshore gas debate in Victoria has been fraught with confusion over the differences between unconventional and conventional gas exploration.

Unconventional gas
refers to an underground source of natural gas found in the layers of three types of rock structures (coal seams, tight rocks and shale rocks), which may be extracted by high pressure pumping of water, sand and sometimes chemicals into these structures to release the gas.

Conventional gas is an easier process that involves drilling directly into gas trapped in porous rocks.

Mr Jochinke said the VFF hoped this was the first step towards the Government giving farmers the right to say no to mining proposals on their land.

Media Contacts:

David Jochinke, VFF President: 0427 834 524

Ashley Mackinnon, VFF Public Affairs Officer: 0417 165 784