A GREENS senator has thrown his support behind a battle against coal-bed gas exploration in Colac and district.
Senator Richard Di Natale said residents and farmers had only found out about a licence to explore 500 square kilometres of the region for coal-bed methane after a 21-day public consultation period finished.
“It’s pretty clear that the legislation that is in place to inform land holders that something is in the pipeline is pretty inadequate,” Senator Di Natale said.
The Colac Herald first revealed plans for the gas hunt in May 2010, before public consultation ended.
But campaigners want governments to publicise mining licences more.
The Department of Primary Industries granted the five-year licence to ECI International and CFT CBM Holdings in December last year.
The search will cover Colac, Barongarook, Forrest and Gellibrand.
Senator Di Natale, who lives at Deans Marsh, said he would “do his best” to attend a public meeting on September 16 to oppose the search for gas.
Senator Di Natale said the Greens supported the right of farmers to protect prime agricultural land.
“We introduced a bill to parliament this week that would give landholders the right of veto from coal-seam gas exploration on agricultural land and unfortunately it looks like it hasn’t got the support of the major parties,” he said.
The battle against the gas search comes after mining companies Mantle Mining and Mecrus Resources last month abandoned plans to explore the region for coal.
Colac Otway Sustainability Group president Virginia Wallace said farmers were unaware of the exploration licence that affected their properties.
“We’re not pushing any position other than we want people to be aware,” she said.
“I think it would be good if there were more requirements to publish a larger sort of ad about this sort of thing; if they are granted a mining licence it’s extremely significant to the district, which is primarily agricultural farming land.”
Yeodene beef farmer Brian Bowtell said he was concerned about the effect coal-bed methane exploration could have on farming.
He said he planned to attend the September 16 meeting and had been informing his friends and neighbours about the licence.
“I’m a bit disturbed about the way it interferes with the farming activities with the way the wells are drilled.”
The Colac Herald contacted ECI International but did not hear back before the paper went to print.