Communique 1 - August 2017

On 17 August 2017, I chaired the inaugural meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Panel for onshore conventional gas studies, which is part of the State Government's Victorian Gas Program.

The Panel has been established by the [former] Minister for Resources, the Hon. Wade Noonan, to oversee the onshore conventional gas geoscientific and environmental studies over the next three years.

The role of the Panel is to provide the Minister for Resources with advice on the risks, benefits and impacts related to onshore conventional gas, with particular attention paid to social, economic and environmental factors.

The Panel will meet regularly over the next three years and includes a broad range of views, including farmers, industry, local government and the community. Panel members are able to provide feedback from the community and other stakeholders as the studies are undertaken.

The Panel members appointed are:

  • Mr Stephen Bell, Chief Executive Officer, Qenos
  • Mr Ben Davis, Secretary Australian Workers' Union Victorian Branch
  • Mr Gerald Leach, Chair of the Victorian Farmers' Federation Land Management Committee
  • Ms Alison Marchant, Secretary of Frack Free Moriac
  • Ms Linda French, Community Development Manager, Lattice Energy (formerly Origin Energy)
  • Mr Tennant Reed, Principal National Adviser, Public Policy, Australian Industry Group
  • Cr Joanne Beard, Mayor of Corangamite Shire and representative of  the Great South Coast Group
  • Mr Mark Wakeham, Chief Executive Officer, Environment Victoria

Minister Noonan welcomed the panel at its inaugural meeting. For the benefit of the panel, the Minister reiterated the course the Victorian Government had taken to legislate to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and coal seam gas, while extending the moratorium on onshore conventional gas to 30 June 2020. He said the moratorium would allow time for a scientific program to assess the potential onshore conventional gas resources of the State. The program will include environmental baseline studies and the community will be actively engaged  over the life of the studies. The results of the study and the panel's work would help guide future decisions about the prospects for onshore conventional gas exploration and development beyond the middle of 2020.

During the meeting, representatives from Geological Survey of Victoria (GSV), the Government's geoscience unit, gave a briefing on the schedule of onshore conventional gas geoscientific and environmental studies that will be conducted.

The focus of the studies will be on the Otway Basin in south west Victoria, particularly between Warrnambool and Port Campbell. The GSV has identified this area as having the greatest potential  for onshore conventional gas.  Some studies will be done in the Gippsland Basin, although based on existing data, the GSV considers this basin to be less likely to hold onshore conventional gas resources than the Otway Basin.

The geoscience studies will involve rock characterisation studies and analysis of current geoscience data. The results will assist in the development of three-dimensional models for the Otway and Gippsland geological basins. The environmental studies in the field will provide baseline data on groundwater chemistry and atmospheric conditions across the Otway and Gippsland basins.

GSV representatives emphasised the importance of community engagement to support the geoscientific and environmental studies. This included insights of engagement activity undertaken to date with local regional councils, community groups, peak industry bodies, water catchment management authorities, gas exploration companies and academics.

An important part of the community engagement program is to progressively provide the results of the studies to the public. Factual information from the studies will be provided to farmers, industry, local government and regional communities. A local team of geology specialists and a dedicated community engagement officer based in Warrnambool will ensure the community remains involved and informed about the studies. In practical terms, this means that there are people on the ground who can answer questions for local residents and landholders.

As Victoria's Lead Scientist and panel chair, I am looking forward to working with the Panel over the next three years.  I am sure the advice we will provide the Minister will assist the Government to make the best decisions possible about onshore conventional gas for all Victorians.

For more information visit the Victorian Gas Program on the Earth Resources website.

Page last updated: 30 May 2018