The Mirror News

Council urged to take stronger stance on CSG

COAL Seam Gas. You can read all about it on a new page on the South Gippsland Shire Council website [under Sustainability Services].

“Finally,” say members of Coal and CSG Free Mirboo and other groups and individuals fiercely opposed to the exploration and mining of unconventional gas in South Gippsland.

As Marg Thomas asserted in a presentation to Council last Wednesday on behalf of Coal and CSG Free Mirboo, the inclusion of information regarding where Council stands on the controversial issue of CSG exploration and mining was promised long ago and has been a long time coming.

She thanked Council for posting the information on its website last week, but said that it was important the information was regularly updated so that the public – many of whom have concerns about CSG exploration and mining – are kept informed.

The account on the website points out that “Councillors have given unanimous support to rising community concerns over the possible granting of coal seam gas exploration licences in the South Gippsland region. Since 2011, many residents have rallied at several public meetings across the Shire and over 100 attended the June 2012 Council meeting where Councillors responded unanimously to support their concerns. Further issues also emerged at the July 2012 Council meeting.” 

At the June 2012 meeting Council agreed to “ensure the community is kept up to date with all relevant information as it becomes available through our website, council reports and contact with concerned community groups and Bass Coast Shire Council”. A motion was passed “that Council opposes coal seam gas exploration or mining /extraction on land it owns or manages until it is shown to be safe”.Ms Thomas would also like to see Council’s stance on CSG prominently displayed in SGSC’s newsletter, ‘Gippsland Matters.’

“We want it out there!” she said.

She said that opposition to CSG exploration and subsequent mining was very strong in the South Gippsland community, borne out by the declaration in Mirboo North that 96.6 per cent of that district does not want coal or coal seam gas exploration or mining.

“Other communities in South Gippsland, including Poowong, Boolarra and Kongwak have made similar public declarations based on similar findings. Similarly, Koonwarra is about to make their declaration,” she asserted.

Ms Thomas asked how South Gippsland Shire Council’s representative at the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) meeting voted on the motion that the MAV should advocate, on behalf of councils, to the various government bodies regarding the concerns local government has with Coal Seam Gas. Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks said he was at the meeting and he supported the vote, which was unanimous, for MAV advocacy. He added that a similar motion later at a national level was lost, because it was regarded as a state rather than a national issue.

It is reported on the website that South Gippsland Shire Council has put forward its concerns to the industry and related governing bodies in relation to Coal Seam Gas and met with government regulators on a number of occasions. “Council, in its advocacy role, is here to support the community in its pleas to the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), to be judicious and protective of our environmental and economic resources.” However, included also is the rider “It is important to note that Council has no statutory planning decision making powers in relation to mining exploration licences, the State Government is the decision making body.

“Marg Thomas had one final plea on behalf of Coal and CSG Free Mirboo. She said: “We would like to remind Council of Mayor Fawcett’s message in the 2014 autumn edition of Gippsland Matters, where he states ‘We will advocate to other tiers of government and relevant authorities to represent your concerns and seek resolution on your behalf…Powerful partnerships can deliver outstanding results when individuals and community groups work together with local, State and Federal Government. Council invites your ongoing involvement to help to build a better Gippsland.’ We now call on Council to make good on this promise and undertake to move forward with our requests, thus endorsing the strong opposition of our communities to Coal Seam Gas mining.”

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