Farmer lifts curtain on gas risk

INDUSTRY INSIGHT: Kalangadoo farmer David Smith hopes the Oatmill Cinema will overflow for the screening of Pipe Dreams Fractured Lives for the world premiere.
INDUSTRY INSIGHT: Kalangadoo farmer David Smith hopes the Oatmill Cinema will overflow for the screening of Pipe Dreams Fractured Lives for the world premiere.

A REGIONALLY produced documentary focused on the gas industry will be screened in a world premiere at Mount Gambier’s Oatmill Cinema.

The film documents the journey of Kalangadoo farmer David Smith who has toured the coal seam and shale gas industry heartland in Queensland and the United States.

Mr Smith stepped out of his comfort zone into what he described as an “environmental war zone”.
The environmental campaigner says the documentary delivers an “alarming message” about the industry’s potential impact on the region.

Already, the film – edited by Mount Gambier cinematographer Rob Tremelling – has sparked significant interest with the site reaching more than 50,000 people in the first seven days.

Mr Smith toured rural areas of America in 2015 with four politicians, a veterinarian as well as a doctor before returning last year to shoot the 70-minute documentary.

The environmentalist secured interviews with leading gas industry and health experts to unearth facts on shale gas projects in North America.

“I sought nothing but the truth,” Mr Smith told The Border Watch this week.

“The documentary shows when things go wrong, they go terribly wrong – we cannot allow unconventional gas mining to get a foothold in the region.”

Mr Smith toured particular areas in America that had shale gas reserves similar to the Limestone Coast.

From groundwater pollution to beef contamination and poor health outcomes, he said the effects of gas mining were far-reaching.

“Contamination has no boundaries. How do you clean an aquifer if there is a massive contamination issue?”

He said it was mind-blowing the number of accidents – including radioactive chemical leaks – that had occurred in America’s rural areas.

“One well in particular blew out for four months, spewing out a massive amount of material,” he said.

Mr Smith captured on film gut-wrenching stories from farmers who have been devastated by the gas mining juggernaut.

Speaking ahead of the February 7 premiere of “Pipe Dreams and Fractured Lives” at the Oatmill Cinema, Mr Smith revealed his journey began several years ago when he first started to undertake some initial research on the gas industry.

Before this personal fact-finding mission, Mr Smith had no strong view or stance on the issue.

Today, Mr Smith is regarded as one of the state’s leading activists against fracking in the South East after what he says is compelling evidence regarding environmental and health risks.

While the campaigner has not been against a small number of conventional gas wells in the South East in the past, he harbours concerns the rush on energy exploration may see drilling increase dramatically in the region.

His biggest concerns is methane leakage and claims “gas is dirtier than coal”.

Mr Smith – who is pushing for renewable projects for the South East – said he did not want to see parts of the region gridlocked with gas pipes and drilling operations with both conventional and unconventional projects.

“With the government now realising there is a significant backlash against unconventional gas mining in the South East, they could work the system so they scatter conventional wells closely,” he said.

“Whether the gas comes from a conventional or unconventional well, it all goes into the pipeline and the compressor station and then is transported leaking everywhere.

“Looking ahead we must also get away from conventional as soon as we can.”

Mr Smith – who borrowed money to fund the documentary – also plans to screen the documentary across the region, Western Victoria and in Adelaide.

“I will go anywhere to spread the message.”

Mr Smith – who is also constructing a website – argued the figures regarding employment being released by some sectors of the energy sector were ” grossly exaggerated”.

The documentary also features some farmers, civic leaders and health professionals from the South East.

The film will screen at 7pm and tickets can be pre-ordered at the Oatmill Cinema.

Further information is available on the “Pipe Dreams Fractured Lives” Facebook page, which features a preview for the documentary.