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Farmers welcome onshore gas ban extension

THE Victorian Farmers Federation has welcomed the State Government’s commitment to a permanent ban on the exploration and development of all onshore unconventional gas in Victoria and an extension of the ban on conventional onshore gas development until June 2020.

“The Government’s decision is a win for Victorian farmers, who have been calling for an on-going ban on all forms of onshore gas development until at least 2020,” VFF Land Management chairman Gerald Leach said.

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 usually involves drilling directly into gas trapped in porous rocks, which is released without the need for high pressure pumping or fracking.

Mr Leach said the VFF was glad to see that the Government would undertake “the most extensive scientific, technical and environmental studies in Australia on the risks, benefits and impacts of onshore gas” prior to making any decision on lifting the ban on conventional onshore gas developments.

...we’re relieved to see the Government is undertaking further research before lifting any moratorium on onshore gas mining...
Gerald Leach, VFF

“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,” Mr Leach said.

“As it stands, we don’t know the true environmental impact of onshore gas mining, and we’re relieved to see the Government is undertaking further research before lifting any moratorium on onshore gas mining.”

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.

The VFF needs answers on the impacts of onshore gas on aquifers. Who monitors 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?

We cannot put at risk Victoria's status as the nation's biggest food and fibre exporter ($11.6 billion in 2015) for the sake of some short term gains from the gas industry.

Statement by Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews MP

In a national first, the Andrews Labor Government today announced a permanent ban on the exploration and development of all onshore unconventional gas in Victoria, including hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) and coal seam gas.

The permanent legislative ban, to be introduced to Parliament later this year, will protect the ‘clean, green’ reputation of Victoria’s agriculture sector, which employs more than 190,000 people. This will provide much-needed certainty to regional communities.

The decision ends the anxiety felt by Victorian farmers about the environmental and health risks associated with fracking and forms part of the government response to the 2015 Parliamentary Inquiry into Onshore Unconventional Gas in Victoria.

This Inquiry received more than 1600 submissions, mostly opposed to onshore unconventional gas. It is clear that the Victorian community has spoken – they simply don’t support fracking.

The Government’s decision is based on the best available evidence and acknowledges that the risks involved outweigh any potential benefits to Victoria.

Our state is the nation’s top food and fibre producer with exports worth $11.6 billion. The permanent ban protects our farmers and preserves Victoria’s hard-won reputation for producing high quality food.

Exemptions to the ban will remain for other types of activities that are not covered by the current moratorium, such as gas storage, carbon storage research and accessing offshore resources. Exploration and development for offshore gas will also continue.

Until the legislation is passed by Parliament, the current moratorium on unconventional onshore gas exploration and development will stay in place.

The Labor Government will also legislate to extend the current moratorium on the exploration and development of conventional onshore gas until 30 June 2020, noting that fracking will remain banned. We will undertake the most extensive scientific, technical and environmental studies in Australia on the risks, benefits and impacts of onshore gas.

These will be overseen by an expert panel, headed by the Lead Scientist Amanda Caples, and will include farmers and industry, business and community representatives.

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