Gingin residents support fracking ban

Gingin residents take part in the Frack free WA campaign outside WA Labor’s state conference this weekend. Picture: Frack Free WA

GINGIN residents were among the about 200 anti-fracking campaigners calling on WA Labor to honor its election promises in regard to fracking.

On Saturday, August 26 Gingin residents joined Lock the Gate Alliance and Frack Free WA members gathered outside the WA Labor state conference demanding the government implement fracking bans and veto rights through legislation as well as announce the inquiry promised during the election.

After the conference Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen said WA Labor delegates unanimously endorsed strengthened policies on gas fracking at the first state conference to take place during the McGowan Government.

After the March state election Lock the Gate Alliance and Frack Free WA became concerned when the new government said its policy was a ban on hydraulic fracture stimulation not a ban on exploration for future WA gas supplies.

In response Lock the Gate Alliance said this meant a fracking ban would still allow activities associated with unconventional gas, including exploration, seismic testing, horizontal drilling and waste ponds.

In June the government said it would introduce a strategic five-year release of petroleum exploration areas across the Canning and Perth Basins, which minimised environmental, cultural and land use constraints.

At the time Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said a five-year approach provided greater transparency to the oil and gas industry, particularly targeting gas to improve energy security in the long term.

“A moratorium on fracking may limit prospectors’ interest in bidding, however the release doesn’t conflict with the Government’s policy, pending the findings of a scientific inquiry,’’ he said.

“There may be potential for gas development without the need for fracking.”

Outside the conference on Saturday Frack Free WA tweeted that for the bans in the South West, Peel and the metropolitan area to permanent and meaningful they had to legislated.

Mr Verstegen said delegates at the conference supported a policy reiterating the WA Labor election commitments on gas fracking, including a permanent ban on gas fracking in Perth, Peel, Swan Valley, and the South West.

“The policy also confirmed that WA Labor would consider further fracking bans in sensitive areas following the outcome of an inquiry that was promised before the election, but is yet to be announced by the McGowan Government,’’ he said.

“We congratulate Environment Minister Stephen Dawson and other Labor delegates for responding to community, and for their support in strengthening the ALP Platform in key areas.

“Community and conservation groups across the state look forward to working with Mr Dawson and the McGowan team to deliver the policies agreed to by WA Labor conference delegates.

Earlier this week the Conservation Council of WA said according to the recently released Australian Beliefs and Attitudes Towards Science Survey, seven out of 10 Australians were opposed to fracking.

Mr Verstegen said the results do not come as a surprise.

“The science has consistently shown that there is no safe way to frack – therefore we would expect that the majority of Australians would oppose unconventional gas and fracking.

“Here in Western Australia, people are aware of the science and understand the risks that fracking poses to their health and safety, and they’re determined to keep the industry out of the state.

“WA hydrogeologist Dr Ryan Vogwill’s report Western Australia’s Tight Gas Industry: A review of groundwater and environmental risks highlights the threat posed to WA’s groundwater supplies by unconventional gas and fracking.’’

In June Mr Johnston said the government’s election commitment was to ban fracking in the areas.

“We will place a moratorium on commercial fracking until the satisfactory conclusion of an independent scientific inquiry,’’ he said.

“The government will establish a broad ranging scientific inquiry that considers environmental, health and community impacts.’’