Victorian farmers rally against fracking

One thousand farmers rally against fracking in Melbourne. Photo: CSG Free Poowong
Friday, August 23, 2013

About 500 people rallied at City Square against coal seam gas (CSG) extraction in Seaspray on August 17. Many at the rally were cattle farmers in the Gippsland area.

Protesters expressed concern that CSG mining would destroy farmland, contaminate water, threaten the health of their rural community and create seismic activity.

Some farmers expressed their dilemma over whether to stay and fight the CSG companies, or sell their properties before CSG becomes established in the area.

The event was organised by Quit Coal, and Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North. Grassroots anti-CSG groups Lock the Gate and Farmers Against Fracking also attended.

Comedian Rob Quantock told the rally: “This is my 487th rally that I have compered in my lifetime. Thirteen more and I get a free Happy Meal”.

Many protesters displayed placards against Lakes Oil. A wholly owned subsidiary of Lakes Oil called Commonwealth Mining has two exploration leases for brown coal and coal seam gas in Gippsland.

Bilara cattle farmer Tanya Brown said: “In areas of the world like Canada where CSG mining has been operating for many years, livestock have been found to have a toxic build up as chemicals in their systems directly related to the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing of coal seams and the naturally occurring poisonous substances from the coal beds themselves.”

CSG is not only unconventional and invasive, it also endangers the water supplies.

Seaspray primary school teacher Kirra Boulton told the rally: “In Seaspray we also have the luxury of a town water supply. This is sourced from Merrimans Creek. People in the past have been able to enjoy drinking in it and bathing in it without a worry of it being contaminated. Unfortunately, gas mining companies’ plans for another 70 gas wells in the area seek to jeopardise this.”

In April last year, the state and federal governments announced that experimental technology could turn Gippsland into a coal export region the size of Western Australia’s Pilbara.

Earlier this year six councils and 59 organisations joined Friends of the Earth in calling on the Victorian government to institute a moratorium on all new coal and unconventional gas exploration and operations.

At the rally, Victorian Greens MP Greg Barber was presented with 11,000 signatures on a petition opposing CSG and will present them to parliament.