No drilling pledge

SEASPRAY anti-Coal Seam Gas activists have pledged to do whatever it takes to prevent further gas exploration drilling in the area.

A group of locals met at the entrance to one of the Lakes Oil drilling sites near Seaspray on Friday, taking a pledge to do whatever it takes, even if it means blockading the site, to protect their community.

They claim the moratorium on unconventional gas exploration and mining, which was extended by the state government late last year, would not prevent further exploration drilling from going ahead.

The pending application for a licence to drill could still be rejected by the Energy Minister Nick Kotsiras and locals have called on Mr Kotsiras to do so.

Spokesperson for the group, beef farmer Tracey McGuiness, said when announcing the moratorium would be extended in November, Premier Denis Napthine had said the government would not allow onshore gas if it jeopardised underground water, the environment or food and agricultural production.

However, she said locals fear these would be put at risk if Lakes Oil’s plans to drill go ahead.

She argued the community did not want the land devalued or soil and waterways polluted.

“Our region produces crops, dairy and beef. Tourism is also a large industry here. Our high biodiversity must be protected,” she said.

Local Gary Evison said the moratorium, as it currently stood, would not protect the community as Lakes Oil moved ahead with plans to conduct further drilling.

“The outcome of this moratorium is that the industry can expand here, and put at risk our communities, farmlands, water, and environment,” he said.

“We are taking a pledge today to do whatever if takes to protect Seaspray, even if it means conducting peaceful direct action and risking arrest.”

Lock the Gate Victorian co-ordinator Ursula Alquier said the issue was an opportunity for the Nationals to protect farming communities.

“We are asking Peter Ryan to stand up and represent his rural community and to call on the energy minister to reject the pending application for Lakes Oil to drill in Seaspray,” she said.

“Without assurance from Mr Ryan and the Premier to protect rural communities like Seaspray as promised in November, we will be left with no other option but to commence peaceful direct action and blockade Lakes Oil if they attempt to drill here again.”

The Seaspray lock the Gate action came against the backdrop of Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief executive David Byers saying the government needed to look to the future and allow development of gas resources to meet both export and domestic needs.

“The Queensland and South Australian governments are using effective and proactive regulatory development processes to deliver enormous economic and social benefits,” Mr Byers said.

“For example, Queensland’s natural coal seam gas industry now employs 30,000 people and has contributed more than $100 million to local community projects and causes.

“Yet in Victoria exploration has ground to a halt and in NSW our industry employs fewer than 300 people while the state heads towards a gas price crunch that will have serious consequences for both industrial and household gas users.”