Councillor calls for gas mining ban

A COLAC OTWAY Shire councillor wants the State Government to ban coal-seam gas exploration.

Cr Stuart Hart will ask fellow councillors to support a ban at tomorrow’s council meeting, which would make Colac Otway Shire Council the second Victorian council to call for the move.

The proposed halt to gas exploration would apply until a “comprehensive investigation into the likely effects of this industry”.

Cr Hart said he was concerned about CSG exploration’s effect on groundwater, food security and biodiversity.

“They’re using carcinogenic chemicals to help extract the gas,” he said.

“They put them in industrial diesel and pour it into the ground, and put thousands of litres down.

“We are a food bowl and we have high rainfall, a very high productive area and I’m trying my best to help conserve the Otways from this vandalistic type of mining.”

Cr Hart said he was confident other councillors would support the idea, which he wanted to introduce to the meeting before his council term ended.

He said he hoped for more councils to join the push to convince the government to impose a CSG moratorium.

A gas mining process known as fracking involves high-pressure pumping of a mix of water and chemicals into the coal seam to create cracks in the coal.

Former mayor Cr Brian Crook called for a ban last year when mining company ECI International had plans to explore the Otways for CSG.

The company abandoned its plans in October.

Friends of the Earth co-ordinator Cam Walker praised the council for leading the charge on anti-CSG campaigning.

He said the Victorian Farmers’ Federation, state Labor Party and Gippsland’s Bass Coast Shire Council were part of an expanding movement against CSG.

“They were the first council in the state that showed leadership,” Mr Walker said.

“So if that translated into a formal call, that would be brilliant,” he said.

“I think common sense will have to prevail.

“The minister could do it this afternoon; the minister has powers within the legislation to just enact exclusion zones.

“The only thing that’s lacking is will.”

Forrest’s Karen Hansen, who helped lead an Otways campaign against CSG, said Cr Hart’s proposal was “fantastic”.

“Our state and federal members should start listening to our community, like our councillors are,” Ms Hansen said.

“Until they can come up with independent studies, it’s too much of a risk.”

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