Concerns over onshore gas in Gippsland

Tracey Anton, Toongabbie


I PARTICIPATED in the recent Gippsland Land Use Planning online workshop conducted by the Victorian Gas Program (VGP), which revealed some disturbing information.

Firstly, the onshore Gippsland area prospective for hypothetical gas supply of two to seven months is Seaspray.

For the Otways, seven months to four years. This is based on known geo-data, but doesn’t mean that gas actually exists there.

The VGP report number four has already noted this phantom onshore gas amount will not provide security for gas supply, nor bring down gas prices.

Given the workshops revealed Seaspray was ‘highly constrained’ with water, land and coastal sensitivities, should exploration continue in this vulnerable area only to discover a giant fart?

No, but it will be allowed when onshore gas begins.

The Macalister Irrigation District is also fully constrained according to land use scoring, but is not prospective for gas, so I asked if a land exemption should be applied by the Minister.

This was a reasonable question, but I received a totally unreasonable reply from the presenters as the whole exercise for the land use planning workshop is to work out where exploration should not be allowed.

What appears to be totally uneconomical for a miner in the MID can, according to the presenters, be an economical benefit for a farmer from a well being drilled.

This has nothing to do with the purpose and objectives of the Petroleum Act 1998 to actually extract gas, not provide welfare to a cashstrapped farmer under false pretences.

So, what’s the economics in all this?

With a government-approved gas exploration licence anywhere in Gippsland and Otway Basins, a miner can raise capital for investment without proving any gas exists, whereas, without a licence he can’t.

That’s why the MID, Strzelecki Ranges and South Gippsland can be explored, with all state politicians condoning this practice.

Miners can claim tax deductions from desktop studies, but come the time when the miner must ‘work the licence’, an exploration well needs to be drilled.

Then land access agreements need to be negotiated via government-trained lawyers with ‘contractual templates’ to ‘help’ you ‘sign away your rights’.

That is a total conflict of interest, with the Minerals Council Australia and Victorian Farmers Federation overseeing a trial process.

In the past, $7000 to $10,000 was the going rate negotiated for permission to drill a well on a farmer’s land.

But the farmer is not made aware that the leftover subsurface well infrastructure then becomes the responsibility of the landowner and any subsequent owner to maintain into perpetuity.

Nor would they be aware that the initial money made will be a pittance compared to the devaluing of the land with a permanent well insitu come the time to sell – your superannuation greatly reduced.

In response to Dr Amanda Caples, (May 26) chair of the Independent Stakeholder Advisory Panel (industry stacked towards gas), she was very protective of the integrity of the processes overseeing the studies.

I wonder now if she considered miners working the system at a landowner’s expense is fair or ethical?