Mayor of Geelong confirms his opposition to fracking

At the ordinary meeting of the Council of the City of Greater Geelong, the mayor and two councillors stated that they personally oppose fracking. Cr Andy Richards said the question would be addressed in the Environmental Management Strategy document when it comes back to Council in June/July. The report being presented to council at this time will be available through Council’s website on the Friday prior to the meeting, allowing sufficient time to prepare further questions to Councillors.


“If other councils have already made their stand against fracking, then why can’t Geelong Council do the same?”
Alan Manson

alan-manson-letter_collage14may2014

Fracking forgotten

Letter to the Editor by Alan Manson
Published in Geelong Independent on 23 May 2014

Last week’s Geelong Council meeting created concerns among several attendees when a lack of policy regarding Coal Seam Gas (CSG) mining was revealed.

Council’s Sustainability and Environment portfolio holder Cr Andy Richards revealed that although fracking was not mentioned in their Draft Environment Management Strategy 2013-2017, he stated that since its release, “a number of people had highlighted this oversight since submissions closed” last February.

Considering the Petroleum Exploration Permit PEP163 was issued in 2002, it is concerning that Council has preferred to remain uninformed about the dangers of CSG mining over the past 12 years while exploration wells have been drilled throughout Victoria.

To his credit, and without prompting, Cr. Irvine indicated he was well aware of the dangers CSG posed to the community, and that he would oppose it in Council.

While Cr. Richards and Mayor Lyons indicated they were personally against CSG mining, there was no indication they were committed to maintaining this position.

It is feared that once the drilling rigs begin to arrive in the Geelong region sometime next year to commence fracking, it will happen without any prior warning and will be too late to stop because the community and the council have failed to become informed about the threat CSG poses to their welfare.

The time for research, debate and a positional statement is required NOW councillors! If other councils have already made their stand against fracking, then why can’t Geelong Council do the same?

Alan Manson
Grovedale

Alan and Lyn Manson who live in Grovedale are starting up Frack Free Grovedale as a sub-group of Frack Free Geelong – with the intention to inform residents in the suburb of Grovedale about the effects of unconventional gas mining and how their properties could be under threat from such mining activities because the PEP163 permit includes Grovedale.

For more information about this initiative, Alan Manson can be contacted via email on frackfreegrovedale@gmail.com


Left out some key facts

In a note on Facebook, Councillor Andy Richard posted the following response to Alan Manson’s Letter to the Editor:

Hi Frack Free Geelong, having been a political activist for several years, I admire your commitment to getting the fracking issue on the local political agenda. However, in your report you have left out some key facts.

Firstly, your report omits the fact that the issue of council’s position on fracking came to light during the public submissions period for council’s Environmental Management Strategy earlier this year, along with several other environment and sustainability issues. My colleagues on Surf Coast shire raised it with me earlier this year, so effectively as a political issue it has only been on council’s agenda to deal with in the last four months. As a result, council officers decided to conduct further work on the EMS and that work is continuing.

Secondly, your story omits the answer I gave you in the council chamber on the night in question, which is that when the EMS comes back to the chamber for sign off later this year, that is when we will deal with fracking. As I said to you on the night, that is likely to be by the end of July, and possibly earlier. That is still the case. Given that the council is dealing with it’s second directly elected mayor in eighteen months and the fact that we are the biggest council in Victoria, this is an adequate time frame.

Thirdly, I am uncertain as to what the point of your statement that “there is no indication that Cr Richards will remain opposed to fracking.” Under the logic you have applied here, do I have to get up in Council each week and restate a position on fracking? I don’t think so. In public statements I make in the chamber, I do my best not to mislead the public as the tends to destroy the public’s trust in you (as the Prime Minister is currently finding out).

Finally, if your ask is that council establish a position on fracking in a timely fashion within the next three months, then that is what you are getting. Of course, it is up to other councillors as to what they think about fracking. Maybe you should ask them…



Question to the mayor about fracking

Transcript of Mik Aidt’s question to the Mayor of Geelong Cr Darryn Lyons at the ordinary council meeting on 13 May 2014:

“My name is Mik Aidt and I run a weekly radio program about sustainability on our local community radio, called ‘The Sustainable Hour’ on 94.7 The Pulse.

I am also a father to three small children – and the way I see it, they are actually the reason I am here tonight, and asking a question – which I am going to direct to you, the Mayor – it is because I am worried as a father.

I think, when trying to be a responsible parent, we have some problems in our society at the moment, and the biggest one of them is that I think we should listen to what science is telling us – they are almost screaming it at us at the moment: that we have to stop burning fossil fuels.

We have to stop filling the air with our tonnes and tonnes of carbon.

It’s time to switch over to solar, to wind, to hydro power instead, and the good news is that there are so many – many many! – good reasons to start doing that, economically, health-wise, and so on. The list is long.

But, what keeps me worried is that, even so, it is not really happening. Not at the rate and at the scale which the scientists are advicing us we should be doing this.

Before I get to my question, I’d just like to recommend and congratulate everyone here in the Council for what you were doing this weekend, for your support to the ‘M~M 2014’ event that we saw in the weekend which I think was one of the most extraordinary experiences, personally, that I’ve had in the time that I have lived here in Geelong, and thanks to you, it was lifted up to that level as it was. That was fantastic. It was beautiful. I am personally grateful for that.

At the same time, that Mountain to Mouth walk was all about – as I understood it – to connect to this land that we live on – and that’s what my question is about: It’s about our connection to the land that we live on.

Especially when it comes to this question gas mining, fracking, as it is called – unconventional gas mining.

At the moment it looks like that fracking operations is something that could begin in our region from next year, when the state moratorium on fracking that we have at the moment is going to run out.

And whether or not it will be extended – that is not a discussion I am going to go into. Certainly the moratorium will eventually run out.

Investing in gas mining in our area is not only locking us into polluting the air with more carbon, which is the wrong thing to do – we know that! – instead of going over to solar, wind and hydro, and so on, as our main sources for electricity – it is also a very destructive industry that pumps toxic chemicals deep down in the ground and leaves us with lakes of poisonous water that we can’t get rid of.

The negative effects on our health, on our environment and the climate are all very well documented by now, and I assume you are also well aware of that.

So the only reason that fracking is taking place and happening, especially in Queensland, but also now coming to Victoria, and maybe even to our region, is that there are some people out there who are making a lot of money on this, while we, the rate payers, are left with all the bills to pay and the destruction of our land.

So the question that I’d like to ask you, our mayor, Darryn Lyons, is because at the time when you were running for mayor, during the election, we put out a questionnaire for our radio program, asking sustainability questions to all the 16 candidates, and at the time you replied that you oppose unconventional gas mining and fracking.

At that time, I was pleased to hear that, but now we have seen you work as a mayor for half a year, and I haven’t heard a single word about fracking coming from your mouth since then, while we see other councils – Moyne Shire Council, Surf Coast Shire Council – making a clear stand, calling for a ban on fracking. So my question to you is:

Are you still against unconventional gas mining and fracking in our region, and if you are, what action are you planning in regard to the drilling licence to Lakes Oil under the Exploration Permit 163?

And if you have changed your mind since these days when you were in your election campaign, if you have decided no longer to be against fracking, then I would ask you to kindly provide us with what new data you have found reassuring in regards to health and safety.”


Mayor Cr Darryn Lyons:
“Well, first of all, I haven’t been asked the question. That is why I haven’t spoken about it. But my original personal view – not the view of the Council’s – is exactly the same as it was. But I would like to hand over to Cr Richards, who has asked to comment on this question as well.”

Cr Andy Richards then told that he doesn’t support fracking either, and a few minutes later Cr John Irvine stepped in, sounding somewhat upset about it. “I’m VERY opposed to fracking,” he stated and explained that he had recently seen a documentary about the issues.


No united stand on the issue
However, it also came clear that the council has not yet had a discussion or a vote about its position on fracking.

Cr Andy Richards told that his own family comes from Queensland, and he is well aware of the health impacts that fracking is having there. He promised that the issue “will be dealt with properly” in the council in the coming months.

Council’s position on fracking will be addressed in the Environmental Management Strategy which is undergoing considerable redevelopment and which will come before Council in late June, early July 2014.



MINUTES – ORDINARY MEETING OF COUNCIL

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 – Held at the Council Conference and Reception Centre City Hall, Little Malop Street, Geelong, commencing at 7.00p.m.

» Download or open the full document here:  Minutes (PDF)


QUESTION TIME

Mik Aidt directed his question to the Mayor:

It looks like fracking operations could begin in our region from next year, when the state moratorium on fracking runs out. You stated during the mayoral election period that you oppose unconventional gas mining and fracking. At the time, I was happy to hear that, but I wonder why we don’t hear anything from you on this topic. So I’d like to ask you: If you still are against unconventional gas mining and fracking in our region, what action you are planning regarding the drilling licences in the region to Lakes Oil under the Exploration Permit 163? If you have changed your mind since the days of your election campaign and no longer are against fracking, then would you kindly provide us with the new data that you have found reassuring with regards to health and safety to date?

The Mayor responded that he hasn’t been asked the question, but his original personal view remains unchanged.
Cr Richards added throughout his time he also hasn’t been asked the question. Comments regarding fracking were received through the exhibition process of the Environmental Management Strategy, which is due to be presented back to Council June or early July and will consider this matter.



Alan Manson directed his question to Cr Richards:

1) What discussion has the City of Greater Geelong had to date in relation to fracking and the possible effects PEP 163 might have within the municipality?
2) Would Council consider joining Moyne and other Councils in opposing fracking from being permitted within its municipality? If so, could you please explain how Council might engage in this.

The Mayor left the meeting room at 7.50pm

Cr Richards responded fracking would be addressed within the Environmental Management Strategy due back to Council June or early July.

The Mayor re-entered the meeting room at 7.52pm


Lyn Manson also directed her questions to Cr Richards:

1) I would like to know what understanding you have about the environmental dangers that come with this form of mining, and in particular the damage it would have on our community aquifer, the air quality and the drinking water?
2) I would like you to explain your reasons why you support or oppose unconventional coal seam gas mining?

Cr Richards reiterated the questions would be addressed in the Environmental Management Strategy document when it comes back to Council in June/July. The report being presented to Council at this time will be available through Council’s website on the Friday prior to the meeting, allowing sufficient time to prepare further questions to Councillors.
Cr Richards added he personally opposes fracking.




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