Farmers say “Frack Off” to unconventional gas mining

Victorian farmers are claiming a major victory as State Parliament passed the Vic Government’s Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking) Bill 2016, making Victoria the first Australian state to permanently ban fracking.

The verdict is a win for the Victorian Farmers Federation, which has long lobbied for the ban on unconventional gas exploration, as well as a moratorium on conventional gas extraction until 2020.

“This decision will give security to our landholders and reinforces a commitment to long term investment in the Victorian agriculture industry,” VFF President David Jochinke said.

“It’s fantastic to see both sides of politics swing their support behind our farmers by voting to ensure fracking is permanently banned.”

The decision comes as the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences March agricultural report predicted farm value would reach $63.8 billion this financial year.

Mr Jochinke said it was a relief to see the State Parliament recognise the importance of agriculture to the local economy.

“What we have seen is a clear acknowledgement by our politicians of agriculture’s worth,” Mr Jochinke said.

“Victoria has precious groundwater reserves and because the true environmental impact of onshore gas mining is still unknown, it would be reckless to put those reserves at risk without hard scientific evidence that show the risks of onshore gas development can be properly managed.”

Mr Jochinke also acknowledged the State Opposition for moving an amendment to the legislation that would give farmers the right to veto mining activity on their land if a conventional onshore gas industry is pursued in the future, although the amendment was not accepted.

“It’s pleasing to see that the right to veto has been discussed and that it is on the table if the issue is revisited when the moratorium on conventional gas is revisited in 2020,” he said.

The onshore gas debate in Victoria has been fraught with confusion over the differences between unconventional and conventional gas exploration.

Unconventional gas refers to an underground source of natural gas found in the layers of three types of rock structures (coal seams, tight rocks and shale rocks), which may be extracted by high pressure pumping of water, sand and sometimes chemicals into these structures to release the gas.

Conventional gas is a simpler process that involves drilling directly into gas trapped in porous rocks.