Gas concerns are proving universal

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GIPPSLANDERS’ concerns about onshore gas exploration were consistent with the majority opposed to it, according to lead independent facilitator Mick Maguire of The Primary Agency.

Mr Maguire said the natural gas open day sessions in Gippsland had been reasonably well supported, with more than 100 attending sessions at Warragul, Sale and Bairnsdale and about 90 at Inverloch and Mirboo North.

“About 70 to 75 per cent had strongly opposing views,” he said.

“Some people, about five per cent, were supportive, the balance were unsure but interesting in finding out more.

“There was consistency in the issues.

“There was anxiety over water contaminants in aquifers, both ground and surface water.

“There were concerns about property values being depressed.

“I don’t know if this is urban myth or genuine concern, but some believe they wouldn’t be able to get insurance cover because of the risks.”

Mr Maguire said those with an opposing view believed jobs would be shifted rather than created, while industrialisation of land and public health were also raised.

“Whether we have it or not, it is causing genuine anxiety and stress, a lot of people have been in tears” Mr Maguire said.

“We give the opportunity for people to speak one on one or in a small group.

“Most people opt for the group.

“Some groups had supporters, but the majority were opposed.

“There was some heated debate, but it’s a credit to the community that everyone in the groups were able to express their opinion.”

Mr Maguire said the open days would now move to the west of the state, with another three scheduled and a further three expected to come.

“We are now moving to the west and we had a session in Torquay where the concerns raised were much different,” he said.

“The audience was from a different background; we had much fewer farmers.”

Mr Maguire said the open days would provide the raw material and quantitative information needed for workshops to be held across the state with key community stakeholders.

He said the open day process would finish by the end of July, with a report ready to be issued to the state government before March 31 next year.

“We’re not here to convince people; we are here to better understand the communities’ views,” he said.