Victory! But the struggle goes on.
From 2011 until 2017, Friends of the Earth played a key role in the successful campaign to:
win a permanent ban on the process of fracking (a dangerous drilling method used to access unconventional forms of gas),
win a moratorium on all onshore conventional gas drilling and exploration, and
see off a number of plans for new coal mines in Victoria.
Now in 2019, we're working to see a halt to government plans to open up large sections of the west coast of Victoria to offshore gas exploration.
You can sign our petition opposing the exploration here.
You can donate here. Thanks!
Below is a summary of the campaign so far.
Background to the campaign
The most recent IPCC report has endorsed the view of climate activists and scientists who have warned that countries cannot burn the world’s known reserves of fossil fuels without sending the climate system into a dangerous tailspin.
We believe our best contribution to slowing climate change is to stop the further development of fossil fuel projects in Australia.
In 2012, a campaign launched by FoE and Quit Coal was able to achieve the first significant environmental victory under the Coalition government in Victoria. The then Premier, Ted Baillieu, announced a moratorium on the process of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and a ban on the use of the use of the dangerous BTEX chemicals in the gas drilling process.
While FoE has worked for many years against new coal developments in Victoria, the campaign against unconventional gas started in 2011, in response to a growing number of applications by companies to look for various gas sources, including coal seam gas (CSG), shale gas and Tight gas. Additionally there are a growing number of proposals for new uses for coal beyond just digging it up and burning it, including coal to gas projects.
If approved and developed, all of these projects will have significant negative impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and local land, water, farming and communities. It is likely that the industry will impact negatively on the vibrant farming sector. The fossil fuel industry is well past its use by date, and we are doing our very best to make sure it does not get any further foot holds in Victoria.
For the past three years we have been fortunate enough to be able to employ Ursula Alquier and Chloe Aldenhoven as community campaigners. They have worked closely with dozens of communities and thousands of individuals to build a strong community resistance to new fossil fuel proposals across the state. They have helped organise hundreds of public events in regional Victoria, and worked very closely with the more than 70 communities who have declared themselves ‘coal and/or gasfield free’.
The cornerstone of our work has been the gasfield and coal free community organising model originally developed in northern NSW.
Community concern about new coal and gas projects remains so high that the Coalition government decided to keep the moratorium in place until the 2014 state election. Unconventional gas became a major issue in the election, and the ALP promised to maintain the moratorium and initiate an inquiry into the gas industry.
A cross party inquiry released it's final report in December 2015. In August 2016, the Andrews government responded to the inquiry and announced a permanent ban on fracking and unconventional gas drilling in the state.
In March 2017, the Victorian parliament voted to adopt legislation which will make Victoria the first Australian state to permanently ban the process of fracking!
The following is a summary of some of our campaign work over the past few years to oppose new coal and gas. We have achieved some great results through working with regional communities, and with the support of our members.
Working with other green groups, FoE campaigns successfully against new coal allocations
FoE starts to track the approval of new unconventional gas exploration licenses across Victoria
PUTTING CSG ON THE MAP - AND FIRST VICTORIES
We put CSG ‘on the map’ in Victoria with the CSG Roadshow featuring Drew Hutton of Lock the Gate. FoE toured Drew through western Victoria to warn people about the real problems that had arrived in Queensland as a result of the unconventional gas industry.
FoE felt that the industry was less entrenched in western Vic compared with Gippsland and would be easier to defeat, so initially focused on applications to the west of Geelong
FoE launches the call for a moratorium on CSG and unconventional gas development pending a full and independent inquiry to determine whether the industry will be safe for land, water and communities
Colac Otway becomes the first Council to come out against CSG
Federal MP Darren Cheeseman supports our call for a moratorium
Following the road show, a company withdraws 4 applications to explore for CSG in western Victoria
GIPPSLAND COMES INTO FOCUS
Late 2011. The campaign refocuses on eastern VIC, supporting the Toongabbie community against a coal proposal
FoE and Quit Coal start to attend community meetings in Gippsland opposing new applications, speaking at many events and working behind the scenes with local groups
The shift to Gippsland brings a broader focus, with Tight Gas being a significant threat in sections of the region, especially at Seaspray.
A NEW COMMUNITY ALLIANCE
The resulting collaboration with local groups sees FoE facilitate the creation of the Gippsland Alliance
We maintain a strong media profile as the ‘go to’ group on new gas operations in Victoria
We maintain an active monitoring of the mining industry reform process and critique of the EDIC ‘greenfields minerals development’ process in state parliament
FoE identifies Lakes Oil as major player in the industry and through the FOI process, discovers that Lakes had a fire at one of their previous flaring operations which resulted in a bushfire that was only stopped by the local CFA
FoE alerts Corowa Council and the local community to planned CSG exploration in Corowa Shire, just north of the Murray River. The resulting community campaign causes company to withdraw proposal
In autumn 2012, FoE/ QC formally launch an alliance calling for moratorium on new coal and gas operations. This is supported by 70 community organisations and 6 local Councils. The Greens support the call, and ALP supports the moratorium on gas
QC starts to promote the ‘gas and coal free community’ model developed in northern NSW, whereby communities survey their locality with the question ‘do you support our community declaring itself coal/ gas free’?
June: Councillors from South Gippsland Shire unanimously supported a motion calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) after a spirited community campaign.
MORATORIUM ON FRACKING!
August: After a strong community campaign, the state government declares a ban on the use of dangerous BTEX chemicals in gas drilling and a moratorium on the process of fracking.
We help establish Lock the Gate in Victoria
We work closely with the community of Seaspray in their surveying process. Seaspray becomes the second Victorian community to declare itself gasfield free, in August 2013
Throughout the year, we work with more than 14 communities who are concerned about new coal and gas proposals, helping to organise more than 50 community events across Gippsland
May. The Victorian government signs off on the National Harmonised Guidelines on gas production, which had been intended as the end point of the moratorium. Yet government maintains the ban because of sustained community hostility to new gas proposals
Lakes Oil starts testing drill sites at Seaspray for Tight Gas
June: QC and Friends of Mirboo North organise the ‘farmers and friends against fracking’ rally in Melbourne
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) launched its long awaited ‘charm offensive’ in Victoria, with its ‘Lets Grow Victoria’ campaign, in response to sustained community opposition to gas drilling
July: Seaspray in Gippsland becomes the second Victorian town to declare itself gasfield free, after 98% of the local population supported the declaration proposal
August: FoE/QC start to replicate the organising model of the campaign in western Victoria
November. Peter Reith’s long awaited report to the Victorian government about the eastern gas market was handed to the government. As FoE said at the time:
“Mr Reith is using the spectre of an imminent gas crisis, job loss, rising prices, and the potential collapse of our manufacturing sector to scare the Victorian people into accepting his argument that we must start drilling for unconventional gas as soon as possible”
The government extends the current moratorium on fracking until at least June 2015. It is clearly hoping to take the heat out of the issue in an election year, but with exploration activity continuing, community resistance continues to grow
GOVERNMENT SIDES WITH MINERS AGAINST COMMUNITY
December. The state government updates the Mining Act (called the MRSD Act) to make it more difficult for the Energy and Resources Minister to create exclusion zones to protect areas from mining. FoE had been encouraging communities to ask the Minister for local exemptions. It seems that the government has heard the community voices, yet has acted to extend the powers of the mining industry rather than protect communities
COAL AFFECTED COMMUNITIES
We have increased our work with Gippsland communities directly under threat of new ‘greenfield’ coal mines, in both the Latrobe Valley and South Gippsland.
In March, Boolarra declares itself coal and gasfield free, the first community in the Latrobe Valley to do so
SEASPRAY UNDER THREAT
February. FoE supports the community at Seaspray in declaring its intention to blockade gas and oil drilling should the government approve an application from Lakes Oil.
NEW ALLIANCE IN THE WEST
Groups in western Victoria set up a region wide alliance against unconventional gas
The first declarations occur in western Victoria, with Bambra and Deans Marsh going gasfield free
JOHN FENTON VISIT
In March, we hosted Wyoming rancher John Fenton, who spoke about the damage caused by unconventional gas drilling in his community
By May, there had been nine community declarations against coal and/or gas. The towns that had declared themselves coal/ gasfield free are:
Seaspray, Giffard & The Honeysuckles
Deans marsh/ Boonah
Kongwak, Wattlebank, Bena, Moyarra, Jeetho & Jumbunna
More than 3,000 homes had been door knocked, with average support of 95% for each declaration.
VICTORY! Moratorium extended to all onshore gas exploration
May. Community members at Seaspray set up Camp Seaspray, to provide a base for a direct action blockade should the government approve a drilling proposal from Lakes Oil. The government had been sitting on this application for 6 months. Sustained community opposition, a strong social media campaign highlighting local opposition, and the threat of a blockade will make any approval a difficult proposition for a Coalition government in an election year.
It was decided to ramp up the pressure and force the government's hand. A group of Seaspray residents and farmer's decided to do a horse ride in Melbourne.
May. Just a day before the planned horse ride to Parliament House, the Victorian government announced that it had decided to put a hold on making any decisions on the approval of current onshore gas exploration work plans. This stops the Seaspray drill application and activity across the state until 2015.
Our response to the government announcement is here.
FoE launched its ‘Just Say No’ campaign in response to the state government consultation over unconventional gas.
In June 2014 we helped mobilise hundreds to people to attend the state government's consultation on unconventional gas. Media reports said that around 80% of people attending the sessions were opposed to gas development.
FARMLAND NOT GASLANDS
October. Farmland not Gaslands is a beautiful short film about communities from the far East of Victoria all the way to the South Australian border, who are working with one another to lock up their properties and their towns to keep each other safe.
Onshore gas mining is an issue close to home for director and producer Pennie Brown – literally. Her family live in Gippsland, where over 350,000 hectares of land is covered in approved exploration licences for unconventional gas.
It was launched as part of the Melbourne Environmental Film Festival.
UNCONVENTIONAL GAS AND THE STATE ELECTION
In September 2014, the locality of Moriac, to the west of Geelong, declared itself gasfield free.
Moriac was the 25th town to go gasfield free.
What was noticeable about this declaration was the wall-to-wall showing of MPs and candidates. For the first time, all main Parties attended, with local Labor, Liberals and Greens all standing united in support of declaring the region gasfield free!
Shortly afterwards, the editor of The Weekly Times announced that unconventional gas was the second most significant issue in regional areas in the build up to the November election.
After one term in power, the Coalition lost government at the November election. There were large swings towards anti coal and gas parties and candidates in key areas of southern Victoria.
The ALP has announced that it will keep the current moratorium in place and initiate a state Inquiry into the unconventional gas industry. This is a great outcome, and underscores the power of the community campaign.
There have been 33 Community declarations up til November 2014!
Moriac/ Mt Moriac/ Paraparap/ Freshwater Creek/ Boonah/ Bambra/ Deans Marsh/ Drumborg/ Lyons/ Hotspur/ Dartmoor
Poowong/ Poowong North/ Poowong East/ Seaspray/ Gifford/ The Honeysuckles/ Glomar Beach/ Harmers Haven/ Yarragon South/ Boolarra/ Mirboo North/ Briagolong/ Yarragon/ Kongwak/ Bena/ Jeetho/ Jumbunna/ Moyarra/ Meerlieu/ Perry Bridge/ Goon Nure/ Bengworden
By the end of 2014, there had been 44 community declarations across Gippsland and western Victoria.
Community Gasfield Free declarations continue, with far eastern Gippsland communities making a combined declaration at Eagle Point, in April.
The National Party strengthened their position on the issue of unconventional gas, saying that they now support the right of individual farmers to say no to drilling. FoE believes that giving right of veto to individual land owners will just internalise conflict in communities and a much better option is to give this power to communities (the Energy Minister can create exemptions to mining using their powers in the MRSD Act). Senator Ricky Muir agrees with our position, and announced his support for community right to veto while visiting Seaspray in April.
Yesterday I met with Gippsland residents from Yarram to The Honeysuckles who have united as a community to keep Seaspray free of gas mining exploration.
I believe a community should have the right to veto. 98% of the Seaspray community are opposed to fracking in Seaspray. This is an overdue call to attention for our state representatives to stand up and pay attention. We as parliamentarians are elected to represent the will of the people.
State Inquiry into unconventional gas
In June, the state inquiry into unconventional gas that was promised by the ALP in the build up to the November election got underway.
As of June, 61 communities have declared themselves coal and/or gasfield free.
Auditor General says Victoria 'not ready' for UCG
In August, the Victorian Auditor General released a report on unconventional gas which highlighted many of the concerns expressed by FoE and regional communities.
The report, called Unconventional Gas: Managing Risks and Impacts, released this morning, outlines that "substantial national and international studies have comprehensively identified the potential and known risks that unconventional gas poses to the environment and the community ... Environmental and social values are integral to this conversation if we are to avoid a damaging legacy in years to come."
It points out the gross inadequacy of the current regime for regulating earth resources, stating "the regime has too few environmental controls, and weak consideration of the competing interests for land involved and potential social impacts".
Gasfield Free Victoria rally
With the state inquiry into unconventional gas coming to a close we need to make our message clearer than ever before, that unconventional gas will never be welcome in Victoria.
More than 1,300 people joined the rally, including many from the 67 communities that have already declared themselves Gasfield Free.
The rally was held on Sunday September 20.
Coalition supports 5 year moratorium
In September, the Coalition announced that if re-elected it would support extending the current moratorium until 2020. This is a significant improvement on their previous position (our response is here) and was influenced by the rank and file resolutions that had been brought up at the state conference of the Victorian Farmers Federation in May.
Support for a permanent ban is growing
FoE has long argued for the need for a permanent ban on all onshore gas drilling in the state.
The call for a ban on unconventional gas is also growing, and is now being supported by a number of MPs and parties. These include:
Who will be next?
Final report from gas inquiry released
On December 8, the committee running the inquiry into unconventional gas tabled it's final report in parliament. This will be used by the Labor Government to make a decision about the future of onshore and unconventional gas mining in Victoria.
All eyes on the ALP
It is now up to the ALP to respond to the final report of the state Inquiry. It is expected that a new gas policy will be released by the end of summer 2016.
We are urging the government to support a permanent ban on all onshore gas drilling.
If you support this call, then please sign our petition to the Premier.
The community says NO
Total coal and gasfield free declarations, to November 2015
Poowong, Poowong East & Poowong North/ Mirboo North/ Seaspray, Giffard, Glomar Beach & The Honeysuckles/ Yarragon South (Earls Rd and Yarragon South Rd)/ Harmers Haven/ Boolarra/ Kongwak, Wattlebank, Bena, Moyarra, Jeetho & Jumbunna/ Briagolong/ Yarragon/ Meerlieu, Goon Nure, Bengworden, Perry Bridge/ Newry, Tinamba, Tinamba West, Maffra West Upper, Riverslea/ Bairnsdale East, Broadlands, Nicholson, Newlands Arm, Eagle Point/ Gormandale/ Arawata/ Koonwarra, Nerrena/ Darnum/ Inverloch - major rural roads between Wonthaggi & Inverloch
On February 9, the first day of state parliament for the year, about 250 people gathered on the steps of the parliament building to express their support for a permanent ban on onshore gas drilling and a strong Victorian Renewable Energy target (VRET).
Speakers at the event included:
- Gerard Deery, sheep farmer from Gippsland
- Luke Hilakari, secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC)
- Samantha Dunn and Ellen Sandell, state MPs for the Australian Greens
- David Southwick, Shadow Minister for Renewables, Liberal Party
- Wendy Farmer, Voices of the Valley
- Nick Aberle, Environment Victoria
- Matt Landolfo, Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN)
In late February, farmers in western Victoria made a giant 'Ban Gas' sign with the help of almost 2,000 sheep. Farmers from Branxholme, Byaduk and Wallacedale supported the event, with a drone capturing the image from the air. As of early March, the video had been viewed more than 150,000 times.
It lead to a range of media stories, including this one in The Weekly Times.
In March 2016, the Knitting Nanas visited the Premier, Daniel Andrews, to make the point that 'Only a Ban will Do'. He was good enough to join the nanas for a chat. A final decision on the question of onshore gas drilling is expected by April or May this year.
APRIL 2016: The waiting game
The state government is expected to make a decision about the future of the onshore gas industry by mid May 2016.
As proof of how effective our campaign has been, the Unconventional Oil and Gas magazine has given Victoria an ‘F’ in it’s state-by-state analysis of the industry, stating that the “state government has bowed to activist pressure and the oil and gas industry is at a complete standstill”.
MAY 2016: The Upper House steps up
Gasfield Free communities have been proactive in visiting Upper House representatives and have gained the support of enough independents to get legislation enacting the Ban through the Upper House. They include Daniel Young (Shooters & Fishers Party), James Purcell (Vote 1 Local Jobs), Fiona Patten (Sex Party), The Greens and Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins (DLP).
Western Victorian MLC, James Purcell said, ‘It is imperative, particularly for rural Victoria, that the state government make a permanent ban on unconventional gas for the state’.
So if Premier Daniel Andrews and Labor stand with communities and introduce a ban he knows he has the Legislative Council support.
June: deadline for decision
The government has six months to respond to the report from the inquiry. This means the response is due by June 8.
June: decision set back until August
In May there was a surprise re-shuffle of the Victorian Cabinet. Wade Noonan became the new minister for resources.
Just before the June 8 deadline, the minister announced that he would defer his decision until August. We helped organise a 'Ute muster' of vehicles outside parliament to remind all MPs of the depth of community opposition to onshore gas drilling.
As we said at the time:
"We're disappointed that the government has chosen to defer the decision, because the evidence that fracking is damaging to ground water is compelling. However, we understand the need for the minister to be able to defend his decision once he has made it, so appreciate that he needs to take the time to understand community concern about onshore gas".
So, we have another two months of campaigning before we get an outcome, and will be doing our best to convince the new minister to support a full and permanent ban on all onshore gas drilling.
August – on the home straight
In August we released polling that showed that more than 55% of Victorians support a permanent statewide ban on unconventional gas drilling (with only 9% opposing it).
We presented the ‘declaration scroll’, which lists the 75 Victorian communities that have declared themselves gasfield free to the Resources Minister.
In their editorial, The Weekly Times said that the results of our polling are “unlikely to come as a surprise to many, particularly those living in regions most likely to be affected by change to the existing moratorium”.
They note that “the wrong move on a divisive issue such as unconventional gas could be a blow the Andrews Government cannot afford to make”.
Permanent ban on fracking!
On August 30, the Premier of Victoria announced a permanent ban on fracking and unconventional gas drilling in Victoria.
This will be the first permanent ban on fracking in the country.
The government also announced a four year extension of the current moratorium on onshore conventional gas drilling. We are confident this will mean the end of the onshore gas industry in Victoria.
A Weekly Times article on the decision can be found here.
The Premier's statement can be found here.
This is a fantastic outcome, and a testament to the determination of Victorian communities, who have waged a long and strategic campaign to stop this destructive industry.
There is plenty more to do. We need to see the ban legislation pass through parliament. There are a number of government policies coming that will impact the existing greenfield coal proposals around the state, and a re-build of the Victorian Climate Change Act.
But in the meantime, let’s celebrate this historic win.
November 22, 2016
Legislation tabled in parliament
The Victorian government tabled the legislation which will enact the ban, planning to have it pass the Lower House by the end of the year and Upper House early in 2017.
The ALP, Greens, Shooters Party and Sex Party all stated they would support the legislation.
In announcing the legislation, the Premier said "This is a triumph of one of the most amazing community campaigns that our state and indeed our nation has ever seen. Local communities have put an elegant and articulate argument, and we have responded to that."
"We're so relieved to finally hear that the legislation is being tabled, it's been a long hard fight for farmers and rural communities from Gippsland and Western Victoria and today spelt the beginning of a new chapter for Victorian agriculture, a bright future that we must always fight to protect" said Julie Boulton, a dairy farmer from Seaspray, Gippsland.
After the ban ...
Mantle Mining leaves town, as community opposition to new coal grows
Locals from Mirboo North and surrounds were ecstatic to hear that mining company Mantle Mining has walked away from their coal mining licences. Six brown coal mining exploration licences in South Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley were cancelled.
Communities such as Mirboo North that lead the community campaign against new coal projects in the region conducted a door to door survey in 2014 asking residents ‘Do you want to declare this area coal and gasfield free?’ A resounding 96.7% said yes. A community declaration followed in which the people removed the social licence for any new brown coal mining in the area.
This is another great win for people power.
The Bill is finally debated in parliament
On February 9, 2017, the Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2016 passed through the Lower House without dissent (our response available here). With all minor parties also promising to support the Bill, it will soon pass through the Upper House.
One last hurdle
The Bill will be debated in the Upper House in early March.
Sadly, we have hit a final hurdle in this process. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP) is proposing an amendment which would see the moratorium on conventional gas overturned. It seems that the gas industry has been able to convince them to propose this wildly unpopular idea.
We are working to ensure there are sufficient numbers to see this amendment defeated in the final vote.
UPDATE, March 3, 2017:
After a strong last minute lobby effort by many in the community, both Sex Party MP Fiona Patten and independent James Purcell have both stated that they will vote against the amendment.
With the pre-existing support of the ALP and The Greens, there are now a minimum of 21 votes of the total 40 votes in the Upper House which will be against the amendment, making it extremely unlikely that the Shooters amendment will be supported.
Final debate of the Bill will start on Tuesday March 7.
We did it! On March 7, 2017, Victoria became the first Australian state to permanently ban the process of fracking to access ‘unconventional’ gas (gases like coal seam gas or CSG, and Shale and Tight gas).
Our response is here.
According to the media statement from the Premier:
The permanent legislative ban will protect the ‘clean, green’ reputation of Victoria’s agriculture sector, which employs more than 190,000 people. The Bill:
- permanently bans all onshore unconventional gas exploration and development, including hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) and coal seam gas
- extends the moratorium on conventional onshore gas exploration and development to 30 June 2020.
The extension to the moratorium will allow the Government to carry out a comprehensive program of geoscientific research – to look closer at Victoria’s prospectivity, and the potential risks, benefits and impacts of onshore conventional gas and development.
That critical work will be overseen by Victoria’s lead scientist in consultation with an expert panel made up of farmers, industry, local government and community members.
This is a fantastic outcome. It is the result of more than five years of hard work and dedication by many thousands of Victorians. 75 regional communities declared themselves gasfield free during this process.
Thankyou to everyone who built and sustained this campaign. In a time of deep cynicism in politics, this shows what communities can achieve when they work together in a strategic and determined way.
Gina Rinehart and Lakes Oil challenge the ban
Lakes Oil initiated legal action in 2016 after the Andrews Government announced a permanent ban on unconventional gas in Victoria following a parliamentary inquiry and long-running community campaign.
Finally, after a long wait, in September 2018, we were delighted to hear that the case had been unsuccessful.
As we said after the court decision:
“Overall it sends a strong signal to other states who are currently fighting the fracking industry. It proves that the bullying tactics used by mining companies are weakened when communities are united.”
A news story from The Guardian can be found here.
In 2020 we will need to be ready to oppose the possibility that the government will lift the moratorium on conventional gas drilling and exploration.
We are campaigning against plans to open up new areas offshore from Victoria to gas exploration and potentially drilling.
We are campaigning against the carbon capture and storage (CCS) project which is planned offshore from 90 MIle Beach in Gippsland.
Please support us
If you like what we do, then please consider supporting the next stage of our campaign with a donation.