HUNDREDS of Gippslanders descended on Melbourne last Sunday to voice their concerns about the threat posed by coal and gas mining to prime agricultural land.
Rallying under the banner ‘Farmers Against Fracking,’ they presented a petition for Greens MLC Greg Barber to table in the Victorian Parliament this week, calling for a ban on new coal and unconventional gas mining in Victoria.
In an unusual alliance that reflects an Australia-wide movement against the expansion of coal and gas mining on prime agricultural land, Gippsland farmers, business owners and other residents marched alongside Melburnians from City Square to the State Library.
The crowd, estimated by organisers to number as many as 1000, carried yellow ‘Lock the Gate’ triangles, while some brought fresh produce from their farms to highlight the value of Gippsland’s food production.
Several people from Foster travelled on a ‘Coal Seam Gas Express’ bus chartered by the Mirboo North anti-CSG mining group.
“There’s no doubt our local community is aware of and deeply concerned about the risks this industry poses,” said Linda Giddy, who was among the Foster representatives.
She said she was keen to tell the government and mining companies “healthy farms, water and communities are more important for our long term economic health and wellbeing than destructive coal and coal seam gas mining”.
Chloe Aldenhoven from the Melbourne-based group Quit Coal said, “The fact that people from Melbourne are also joining this fight shows how much our farms and our water are valued in Australia.”
The protestors were joined by Rod Quantock as master of ceremonies, while speakers included beef farmer Tanya Brown and primary school teacher Kirra Boulton, the daughter of dairy farmers.
“The spirit of cooperation and support among our Gippsland communities in fighting this threat is phenomenal,” said Ms Boulton,
The Gippslanders were persuaded to make the trip after mounting concern that Victoria’s energy minister, Nicholas Kotsiras, will not follow through on his promise to consult locals over the controversial proposed mining in the farming region. They feel that coal seam gas and other unconventional gas mining practices pose a number of risks to food and water security that are of paramount importance.
Sunday’s rally followed a huge turn-out in the small coastal town of Seaspray, where more than 600 people came together to get the anti CSG message across. They formed a human sign reading ‘No GASFIELDS’ in giant letters on the beach. A recent survey showed 98 per cent of the people of Seaspray want their area to remain gasfield free.
For people who are keen to know where our federal election candidates stand on the issue of new coal and coal seam gas mining, Lock the Gate has arranged a political candidates forum for next week at Yarragon. All McMillan candidates have been invited to attend the forum, which will take place at 7pm next Wednesday, August 28, in the Yarragon hall, Campbell Street, Yarragon. This is a free public meeting.