Council says it wants more information

WELLINGTON Shire Council has confirmed it will work with the State government to seek further information on the benefits and impacts that coal seam gas may have for the region, with council to receive a briefing from the Department of Primary Industries.

Council has also encouraged DPI, ExxonMobil and Ignite Energy to hold public forums to share information and allow for public discussion and debate.

Wellington Shire Council chief executive David Morcom said rather than adopting an immediate negative position, council would gather more information and data before making a formal public position.

“Council certainly shares similar concerns to some of our community members about possible adverse consequences of coal seam gas,” he said.

“But there is an up-side to this debate that shouldn’t be forgotten — many households and businesses are already using, or making the switch to, cheaper forms of energy with a lower carbon impact than brown coal.

“If we can safely access new energy reserves, then gathering information with an open mind is the right approach.

“If during this process council cannot be satisfied on safety and environmental issues, we will certainly not support further activity.”

Mr Morcom said council would shortly receive a briefing from the DPI on coal seam extraction activities specific to our region.

“As part of this briefing, DPI have advised us that they will work with us to conduct public forums to share information, allowing proper public discussion and debate on the matter,” he said.

“We are also talking to Exxon Mobil and Ignite Energy about their current exploration activities, and they have agreed to hold a public open forum to provide information.

“Importantly, exploration activities will take at least 18 months before we start to get a picture of what resources exist and what extraction processes might entail.

“In other words, there is quite a long lead-in time before any commercial extraction might take place.”

Mr Morcom said council would use this time “to get the facts and understand the full picture before we make a formal position.”

“We recognise that a number of residents are very concerned,” he said.

“We also recognise that some people may be fundamentally for or against the activity regardless.

“We simply want to take a balanced, well informed approach.”