FARMERS opposed to unconventional gas mining called in 2000 sheep to highlight their anti-fracking position on a farm south of Hamilton, in Victoria’s south-west at the weekend.
The grain-trained crossbred ewes willingly did their part to spell out the words ‘Ban Gas’ on a hillside while an overhead drone took photographs and video footage.
Footage of the event was captured on video local environmental engineer, Heinz de Chelard, using his remotely controlled drone helicopter.
Farm manager Mal Rowe said training the sheep over two weeks was worth the effort in order to encourage the State Government to decide against allowing an unconventional gas industry to develop in Victoria.
“The main recommendations from the recent gas inquiry in Victoria were that Victoria was no-where near ready to be able to manage such an industry.
“The risks to the environment, to agriculture, to human health and social harmony were deemed to be too great,” he said.
“We want the Premier Daniel Andrews to give us certainty.”
South-west famers opposed to unconventional gas mining believe a decision from the Victorian Government is imminent on the current exploration and drilling moratorium.
Branxholme farmer Colin Frawley said he was told by Premier Daniel Andrews on talk-back radio this month that the State Government would not give the unconventional gas industry the go-ahead unless it had widespread community support.
“We know that they have to make a decision by June,” Mr Frawley said.
Mr Frawley crops and runs sheep, beef cattle and dairy heifers with his wife Jill at Branxholme and said so much of Australia’s agricultural production is now exported to the world.
“We currently have a significant competitive advantage from that clean, green image — common sense says we should do nothing to jeopardize that.”
Byaduk farmer Aggie Stevenson said if the State Government allowed unconventional gas mining farmers would lock the gates.
“This is a unique area.
“We are all connected by the ground and surface water systems, which are critical not only to agriculture, but to the sustainability of the natural environment as well,” she said.
Condah farmer Liz Jordan said she had been trying to get Southern Rural Water position on unconventional gas mining. She said gas mining’s threat to groundwater reserves was “very real”.
“It will be a huge disadvantage to them if things go wrong.”
Hamilton livestock agent, Michael Kerr attended the event and reiterated that the south west region of Victoria is a significant food and fibre production region, should not be at risk.
“We are one of the top wool producing areas in Australia, with West Gippsland we produce the bulk of Australia’s milk, our beef and lamb industries underpin Victoria’s economy, and high value horticulture, wine and cropping are increasingly establishing in this secure, high rainfall zone,” he said.
North Byaduk prime lamb and beef producer Michael Holcombe is also very supportive of the anti-fracking protest.
“I don’t see that farming and unconventional gas mining can safely co-exist,” he said.