As Limestone Coast residents prepare to address the parliamentary inquiry next week, five communities in the Lower South East have celebrated their unanimous push to remain gas field free with a declaration ceremony last held at the Mil Lel Hall last weekend.CONCERNED groups in the Limestone Coast will finally get their chance to voice concerns about the risk of fracking in their region with the Parliamentary Inquiry into Unconventional Gas Mining meeting in Millicent starting on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
The Natural Resources Committee, headed by Member for Ashford Steph Keys, will hear from the Department of State Development at Parliament House on Friday (tomorrow), before the hearing at the Millicent Civic and Arts Centre on February 17-18.
Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell, Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated, Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council, Limestone Coast Treasury Wine Estates, South East Local Government Association, Rural Communities Australia, and Kalangadoo Organic Orchards are all scheduled to present their evidence which will be on government record.
The committee of seven – comprising Labor and Liberal politicians and Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire – will have more than 150 public submissions to consider.
More hearings are likely to be scheduled in the Limestone Coast.
Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated spokesperson Peter Balnaves said they were one of five wine industry bodies in the state to make a submission. He will make a presentation together with expert witness hydrogeologist Glenn Harrington.
Mr Balnaves said legislation in the recently adopted Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan did not cover water extraction by either conventional or unconventional mining, and wanted assurances that existing irrigators would not be adversely affected if mining did proceed.
“Viticulture and wine making have been here and coexisted with other industries for more than 150 years but we can’t afford to risk anything which may affect its viability or sustainability in future,” he said.
Mr Balnaves said they were concerned about the intensity of the mining process, citing that one or two sites would have quite an impact on the landscape and geological structure.
“We are not against mining per se, but what we are seeking (through the inquiry process) is the need to take a much more considered approach to the mining process ((x2026))… if it does happen to proceed,” he said.
Kalangadoo Organic apple grower Chris McColl was hoping the government would see the logic against fracking in the region.
“Mining companies are saying there is low risk but if you roll the dice enough times eventually your number comes up. It is a question of probability – with more wells drilled, the more likely something will go wrong and cause irreparable damage,” he said.
“Water is so much more valuable than the gas. How can you even put a value on the area’s water supply and food production for future generations? The stakes are just too high.”
Members of the public are welcome to attend the hearing at the Millicent Civic and Arts Centre, Millicent, on Tuesday, February 17, from 9am to 3pm and Wednesday, February 18, 9am to 12pm.
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