If elected in 2018, a Marshall Liberal Government will impose a 10-year moratorium on any exploration for or development of unconventional gas in the Limestone Coast area.
South Australia’s Limestone Coast (also widely known as the South-East) has enormous potential to contribute more to the State’s economic growth but it is facing uncertainty.
The region has a great reputation, for premium food and wine. However, without continued access to a clean and reliable source of water, these industries could not survive and prosper.
The region depends for its water supply on regional and local underground aquifers, and cannot continue to support jobs and exports if the groundwater becomes contaminated.
For a long time, the region has also supported an active conventional gas industry which has supplied natural gas to Mt Gambier and some industrial sites from a number of wells in the Penola district.
In recent years however, there have been proposals to consider the potential for unconventional gas mining, and particularly what is called hydraulic fracture stimulation (widely known as ‘fracking’) to produce gas.
In other parts of Australia already, there are limitations and prohibitions on ‘fracking’ for a number of reasons including its potential to contaminate groundwater.
In response to these concerns, the State Liberals supported an inquiry which, after taking evidence for two years, produced the unanimous conclusion that the industry has failed to secure community support and until it does, should not be allowed to operate in the Limestone Coast region.
This followed overwhelming evidence to the inquiry that the industry needs to do much more to explain itself and its activities. The Department of State Development’s submission to the inquiry stated that ‘only if community concerns have been adequately addressed’ will the government consider applications for gas fracking activities in the South East.
The State Liberals Plan
If elected in 2018, a Marshall Liberal Government will impose a 10-year moratorium on any exploration for or development of unconventional gas in the Limestone Coast area, defined as comprising the following Local Government Areas:
- City of Mount Gambier
- District Council of Grant
- Kingston District Council
- District Council of Robe
- Naracoorte Lucindale Council
- Tatiara District Council
- Wattle Range Council
This moratorium will recognise the area’s unique qualities as a primary producer and tourist destination and the need to maintain and enhance its economic importance and reputation.
A State Liberal Government will continue to support exploration for and development of unconventional gas resources in the Cooper and Eromanga Basins in the State’s Far North where the potential is higher and the impacts on other existing activities and the environment are minimal.
During the moratorium, a Liberal Government will act to ensure:
- Any proponent of unconventional gas exploration or production takes effective action to engage with regional and local stakeholders to seek a social licence
- The regulatory regime for unconventional gas exploration and production adequately addresses community concerns to prevent any adverse environmental or other impacts
No exploration and production will take place until these actions have been taken, and not until after the moratorium has expired.
In this way we will:
- Avoid contamination and depletion of groundwater resources
- Preserve the brand reputation of the Limestone Coast for its primary produce and tourism
- Ensure public confidence in the regulatory regime for unconventional gas
With the dependence of many local businesses on regional and local groundwater resources, they should not be exposed to uncertainty about the quality of their water supply from an industry that is not yet established in the area and may not be viable in the South East.
If unconventional gas producers want to come into the South East, they need to prove first that they can explore and produce without any adverse impacts to existing industries.
The Limestone Coast depends on the ongoing quality of its groundwater resources. A State Liberal Government will protect these resources to ensure jobs and industries can continue to grow.