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).
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. All onshore gas drilling in the state was stopped in 2014. In 2017 the ban was announced and in February 2021, legislation was tabled that would see the ban enshrined in the state constitution. It passed the Upper House in March 2021.
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.
The cornerstone of our work has been the gasfield and coal free community organising model originally developed in northern NSW.
Friends of the Earth community campaigners Ursula Alquier and Chloe Aldenhoven 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 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’.
Thank you 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.
The state ban on fracking in Victoria is enshrined in the state’s Constitution.
Win against Lakes Oil
In December 2019, Gina Reinhart-backed Lakes Oil lost its Supreme Court appeal to overturn a gas exploration ban today. The company, which is part-owned by the mining magnate, appealed the original ban in October 2018. Lakes management said while the outcome was disappointing, it will "continue to get on with its business. The company's shares have been suspended since late September but last closed at 0.1 cents each.
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.
Friends of the Earth win Victorian Premier's Sustainability Award
Friends of the Earth won the Environmental Justice category in 2017's Victorian Premier's Sustainability Awards for conducting a campaign to build community resistance to the potential threat of fracking.
The award was presented by the Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Lily D’Ambrosio to Friends of the Earth's Coal and Gas Free Victoria campaigners.
Sustainability Victoria’s interim Chief Executive, Stephanie Ziersch, said “Each year, the Premier’s Sustainability Awards continue to discover Victoria’s best and most inspiring Victorian individuals, organisations and businesses which are developing and implementing new sustainable practices."
“Congratulations to all of this year’s winners. Your contributions will have positive long-term effects on our society and our way of life.”
Friends of the Earth's Chloe Aldenhoven said on the night, "We need people to take up the challenge of being part of our democratic processes, to find common ground and work together on our shared values, to take back control of our political system from the fossil fuel industry and other environmental and social villains, and to transform our society to bring us back to the values of health, community and protecting what we have for future generations."
Fracking Ban is made law in Victoria!
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).
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.
But not before one final hurdle. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP) proposed an amendment which would see the moratorium on conventional gas overturned. After a strong last minute lobby effort by many in the community, both Sex Party (now Reason Party) MP Fiona Patten and independent James Purcell both stated that they would vote against the amendment alongside supporters within the ALP and The Greens, and the moratorium on conventional drilling was also instated until June 30, 2020.
Fracking Ban is debated in Victorian 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.
Historic Community Win: Ban on Fracking in VIC
On August 30 2016, 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.
In November 2016, 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.
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.
Knitting Nanas Against Gas
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.
75 Victorian Communities Gasfield Free!
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”.
Sheep farmers call for Gas ban with creative action
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.
'Ban Onshore Gas, Grow Renewables' rally in Melbourne
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)
Total coal and Gasfield Free declarations, to November 2015
Gippsland: 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
Western Victoria: Deans Marsh/ Boonah/ Bambra/ Moriac/ Mt Moriac/ Paraparap/ Freswater Creek/ Dartmoor/ Palpara/ Mumbannar/ Marp/ Wilkin/ Killara/ Winnap/ Greenwald/ Drik Drik/ Wanwin/ North Dartmoor/ Drumborg/ Lyons/ Hotspur/ Birregurra/ Warncoort/ Woolsthorpe/ Byaduk/ Nth Byaduk/ Wallacedale/ Branxholme/ Brucknell
State Inquiry into unconventional gas
In 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. In March, Boolarra declares itself coal and Gasfield Free, the first community in the Latrobe Valley to do so.
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 visits farming communities
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.
More than 3,000 homes had been door knocked, with average support of 95% for each declaration. The towns that had declared themselves coal/Gasfield Free are: Seaspray, Giffard & The Honeysuckles, Yarragon South, Harmers Haven, Boolarra, Poowong, Deans marsh/ Boonah, Bambra, Mirboo North, Kongwak, Wattlebank, Bena, Moyarra, Jeetho & Jumbunna.
By the end of 2014, there had been 44 community declarations across Gippsland and Western Victoria.
Campaign against unconventional gas and fracking launched with Poowong becoming VIC’s first Gasfield Free town
Poowong, in Gippsland, becomes the first community to declare itself Gasfield Free, with 95% local support for the declaration.
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
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
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 after 98% of the local population supported the declaration proposal.
'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
FoE/QC start to replicate the organising model of the campaign in western Victoria
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”
Moratorium (temporary ban) on fracking extended!
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
In 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
We help establish Lock the Gate in Victoria!
A new community alliance - The Gippsland Alliance
The resulting collaboration with local groups sees FoE facilitate the creation of the Gippsland Alliance
Friends of the Earth 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 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
FoE 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’?
Councillors from South Gippsland Shire unanimously supported a motion calling for a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) after a spirited community campaign.
We win a moratorium (temporary ban) on fracking!
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.
Putting CSG on the map - and first victories
We hold a series of forums in western Victoria (Warrnambool, Colac, Ballarat, and Geelong) to highlight the threat posed by the expansion of coal seam gas, coal, and shale gas in the region. A state wide campaign against Fracking is launched.
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
In 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.