THE state’s peak dairy farming industry group has slammed the State Government over its pro-fracking gas mining stance, claiming it is showing “arrogance” and failing future generations.
South Australian Dairyfarmers Association president and Allendale East producer John Hunt has fired a fresh warning shot at Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis.
His comments come after the Lock The Gate anti-fracking movement continues to show community opposition to expansion of mining activity.
“We do not accept this government’s attempt to lever open this gate – it is not their gate to open, it is the gate of the local community,” Mr Hunt said.
“Our community is not interested in being ridden roughshod over by out-of-touch politicians with an inability to see beyond their ivory towers in Adelaide.”
The government has announced it will open up more than 50,000ha of new gas exploration areas in the Limestone Coast, which could include fracture stimulation.
Mr Hunt claimed the government was quickly losing the trust of the Limestone Coast community.
“‘Trust us on looking after children who are wards of the state’ they said, and yet they failed them, ‘trust us on looking after older South Australians’ they said, and yet they failed them,” the farming leader said.
“Now they are saying trust us on looking after your environment and your premium markets, but how can we trust them?”
Mr Hunt called on gas exploration proponents to commit to gaining “social licence” ahead of any future activity.
“Social licence is permission granted by trust and trust is earned,” he said.
“What we have seen from many of these gas producers, particularly in places like Queensland, is an expectation the government will simply lever open the farm gate for the gas company.”
Mr Hunt called for Mr Koutsantonis to stop his “arrogance” on the issue.
“The behaviour of the mining minister will only lead to a further erosion of trust that will be very difficult to repair,” he warned.
“The companies promoting unconventional gas need to now do more than simply issue glib one liners from behind the skirt of the government and enter into a real dialogue with the community.
“Proponent companies have not yet come even close to that benchmark and unless their approach changes then there will always be pushback.”
Mr Hunt said the government must take heed of the parliamentary report in 2016 that revealed there was no social licence for fracking in the Limestone Coast.
But a steadfast Mr Koutsantonis said more gas mining was needed because of a shortage.
“With the nation currently facing gas shortages which are driving up power prices, it is vital that all states do what they can to encourage extraction of more gas for the domestic market,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
“The gas that is underground in this state belongs to all South Australians and is critical if we are going to address the national gas shortage and put downward pressure on power prices for households and businesses.”
He said unconventional gas extraction had occurred safely in South Australia since the 1960s without incident.
“Decisions on whether these developments proceed are made by the independent scientific experts involved in the regulatory process, not politicians,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
“However, the State Government wants to share the wealth generated through projects with landowners, through the newly announced PACE Royalty Sharing Program.
“This program will create new income streams worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for farmers who have gas extracted from beneath their land.”