Activists target Ryan at bridge’s opening

LOCK the Gate activists used the official opening of the new Cox’s Bridge at Sale on Friday to raise their concerns about potential coal seam gas operations with Deputy Premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan.

Concerned locals, along with some activists from Melbourne, used the opportunity to express their concerns relating to the potential of coal seam gas operations in the area, including light pollution, possible effects on bird life and livestock, water contamination, health, compensation and depreciation in land value.

Mr Ryan said the issue of coal seam gas was being carefully considered by the state government.

“Everybody is entitled to express a point of view about the issues of the day and I welcome the fact that in this great democracy in which we live,” he said.

“Anybody who wants to express a point of view, and do so legally of course, which these folk are doing, they’re perfectly entitled to do that.

“The whole coal seam gas issue is a matter where the state government has this under consideration of course, but on a basis of making sure we do not do anything which in any way, shape or form is going to risk the magnificence of the Gippsland landscapes that we know so well.”

In August, the state government announced tough new reforms to safeguard the interests of communities, the environment and food production in the exploration for coal seam gas.

They include:

A hold on the issuing of all new exploration licences for coal seam gas until the coming national framework proposals have been considered;

A hold on all approvals to undertake hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) as part of onshore gas exploration; and

A ban on the use of BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) in any mineral exploration activities in Victoria.

The government will also:

Seek to strengthen resource policy and legislation to ensure better consideration of mixed land use issues during the application process for coal seam gas exploration activity; and

Use impact statements at the exploration stage in circumstances where there will be a significant material impact on the environment, to better manage mixed land use issues for all minerals exploration, including brown coal and coal seam gas.

Wellington Shire Council will also seek assurances from Energy and Resources Minister Michael O’Brien that the hold on fracking will remain in place until issues around the safety and integrity of Gippsland aquifers can be resolved.

Report on new Cox’s Bridge opening, page 7.