Coal-seam gas protester plans tough fight

A FORREST woman leading a protest against coal-seam gas exploration in the region says she’ll do “whatever it takes and fight from every angle”.

More than 100 people attended a public meeting at Forrest to voice their objections and learn more about their rights in the wake of a mining company’s 500-square-kilometre licence to explore for coal-bed methane in the region.

Meeting organiser Karen Hansen said the turn out and support was “absolutely fantastic”.

Colac Otway Shire mayor Brian Crook and councillor Stephen Hart attended the meeting.

“They are very supportive of us and are already getting the ball rolling by sending letters to relevant ministers,” Ms Hansen said.

“Senator Richard Di Natale sent a representative along and he is putting his full support behind us as well,” she said.

“They want the exploration licence to be revoked.”

The council has demanded mining company ECI International and CFT CBM Holdings abandon their plans to search for coal-seam gas in the Otway region and Ms Hansen said the area was no place for mining.

“There’s not enough community consultation, two ads in the paper is not enough for anyone to know what’s going on,” she said.

“This area relies too much on tourism and agriculture and is not a place to have coal-seam gas mining,” Ms Hansen.

She said if mining was to go ahead it would interfere with groundwater in the area.

“We don’t want this in the area, we can’t afford to have it – the water supplies, not only for us but Geelong and the Bellarine, and we can’t have anything affecting them.”

Representatives from environmental groups Friends of the Earth, Environmental Defenders Office and Lawroc spoke to the crowd about the impact of coal-seam mining and their legal rights as protestors and objectors.

Ms Hansen said ECI International’s Dean Marchiandi had failed to respond to phone calls or emails.

“He does have a duty to consult with the community – they don’t have to come to our meetings but they do have a duty to keep us informed,” she said.

Ms Hansen said the next step was to create a group, which she said would be the Colac Otway No Gas Group.

“We’ll actually be actively setting up information stalls and having information evenings in towns explaining to people exactly what is at risk here,” she said. “I’m expecting this to be a long-term fight, its not something that’s going to go away in the next few months.”

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