A public meeting held in the Tasmanian town of Oatlands on August 2 discussed the application by PetroGas, an offshoot of Petratherm, to explore for shale gas and oil in more than 3000 square kilometres of southern Tasmania.
About 80 residents attended the meeting. Tim Kirkwood, general manager of Southern Midlands council, said it was the best-attended public meeting ever held in Oatlands.
The process of “fracking” for gas requires millions of litres of water and a major concern for many of the farmers present was the question of where the water would come from.
One farmer voiced concern as to whether there was a connection between the completion of the Arthur's Lake water pipeline scheme and this application for exploration of shale gas mining.
Concerns were also raised about the management of toxic water resulting from the process and it was noted that the exploration area covers part of Hobart’s water catchment area.
The community was only recently alerted to the application and expressed anger at the lack of consultation and information. Residents had until August 12 to lodge an objection or a comment to the Minerals Resource Development Tribunal.
Ursula Alquier from Lock the Gate Victoria told the meeting how community campaigns around Australia are showing mining companies they are not welcome.
The Lock the Gate campaign in Gippsland was profiled in a short film and Alquier spoke about how people power can stop mining approvals.
State Greens MP Tim Morris was the only politician to attend the meeting, although other parties were invited. PetraGas did not send a representative, despite numerous invitations.
A group was formed to write an objection to the application. Minister for Energy and Resources Bryan Green will make the decision about whether to approve the application.
At the end of the meeting, people were asked to put their hands up if they wanted to “Lock the Gate” and everyone present raised their hands, except the three council representatives.
Lock the Gate signs were available and the group hopes farmers and residents will display them as a way to reach out and inform other people about the campaign.
The group has established a Facebook page called Stop Destructive Coal and Gas Mining Tasmania.
The group has sent a list of questions to PetraGas and is planning to make a representation to the local council and meet with local politicians.
Another strategy mentioned was surveying the community, thus making the mining company fully aware of the degree of community resistance.
Local campaign group Climate Action Hobart agreed to support ongoing actions of the campaign at its meeting on August 6.
It plans to lodge an objection to the application, highlighting in particular the negative climate impacts of gas and oil mining, and pointing out that allowing this project to go ahead would contradict the government’s own aspirations towards becoming a renewable energy island with a “clean, green” image.
Morris said: “There also must be a broader debate about how much of our hydrocarbon reserves Tasmania can burn whilst we accept our share of responsibly for managing global emissions.”
“If we are to prevent global warming making the planet uninhabitable we must stop exploiting further reserves of fossil fuels.”
[The next meeting will be held on September 13 at 7:30pm, Gay Street Hall, Oatlands.]