LANDHOLDERS are welcoming a decision by Shire of Mundaring councillors to not support fracking within the local government boundary because of concerns over environmental and health issues.
Cr John Daw raised the motion which called for council not to support any form of unconventional gas mining, including shale and tight gas fracking, due to the need to act with a precautionary approach to residential populations, sensitive natural environments, underground water resources and rural and horticultural land uses.
“I moved the motion against fracking in the shire to show solidarity with the City of Swan and other councils across WA that may be affected, or are being affected by fracking proposals and exploration and extraction activities,” he said.
“It sends a message to the State Government that people are very concerned for the human health and environmental damage caused by fracking and the use of chemicals deep underground and the potential affect on water aquifers.
“Whilst there are none and are unlikely to be fracking exploration or production activities within the shire, this resolution is a precautionary move.”
Mundaring landholder Eileen Dallas congratulated the shire for taking decisive action.
“We are pleased council has acted quickly to stem growing concern at the prospect of this industry’s risk to our natural resources, even though currently the exploration permits are outside of the shire boundary,” she said.
“However, the fight against this invasive industry is far from over across WA.
“These are important first steps and highlight the extent of the community’s concerns, and I hope WA political parties make their positions clear ahead of the upcoming election.
“The Swan Valley is an important tourism and agricultural area, and the Central Midlands and Mid West are Perth’s food bowls.
The industrialisation of these regions that would follow unconventional gas mining, would put that at risk.”
Cr Daw said council would also write to the West Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) to investigate planning controls for unconventional gas exploration or extraction under the Metropolitan Region Scheme (MRS).
Shire of Mundaring acting chief executive officer Mark Luzi said there was concern the regulatory framework for unconventional gas within WA was less restrictive than in other parts of Australia, where there were bans or moratoriums.
“Previous decisions have been made by the Department of Mines and Petroleum to issue exploration permits within drinking water catchments in the Perth metropolitan area,” he said.
“Allowing unconventional gas fracking activities is inconsistent with the environmental protection objectives in the Mundaring 2020 Strategic Community Plan.
“Such activities are also inconsistent with community expectations for a precautionary approach to activities that may have serious environmental or health risks.”
Mr Luzi said while the shire was not aware of current proposals for petroleum exploration or production activities within its boundaries, the Department of Mines and Petroleum website flagged a petroleum exploration permit several hundred metres outside of the shire boundary.
“The shire could consider listing petroleum exploration or extraction activities as a prohibited land use under Local Planning Scheme No 4,” he said.
“However, scheme amendments take time and the final decision as to whether to allow a scheme amendment is made by the Minister for Planning.
“In addition, there are vast areas within the shire that are regional reserves under the MRS and are not subject to local planning controls.
“Accordingly, council has resolved at this point to request the WAPC consider land use planning controls for unconventional gas exploration or extraction under the scheme.”
WA Labor Candidate for Swan Hills Jessica Shaw said residents were concerned about fracking practices.
“WA Labor announced this year that if elected we would ban fracking in the Perth metropolitan region, Peel and South West regions,” she said.
By Sarah Brookes