Country folk and city dwellers, young and the old: last Sunday the 20th of September, more than one thousand Victorians united to declare that fracking and gasfields will never be welcome on Victorian soil. Joyfully and defiantly, the crowd made it clear that they were not waiting around for the government to get off the fracking fence, but had taken the decision into their own hands. Bathed in the sunny yellow that symbolises the Lock the Gate movement, creative costumes and colourful signs abounded, sending a peaceful yet powerful message: Victoria is a Gasfield Free State!
The crowd included representatives from the 67 Victorian communities who have declared themselves Gasfield Free after being covered by onshore gas exploration licences without their consent. Farmers and community members from as far as Portland in the Western Districts and Seaspray in East Gippsland traveled several hours to make this state-wide declaration. At the culmination of the march through the city, a beautiful scroll was unfurled on the steps of parliament, declaring our state Gasfield Free and featuring the names of each declared community.
“Communities have spoken, we will not accept this industry in any way, shape or form. Regulations cannot and will not eradicate the massive risk this industry poses to our water, farmland, environment and health. And that is why we will never back down, we are united, we are strong and we are determined, we want a Gasfield Free Victoria and we won’t stop until our precious state is protected!” said Ursula Alquier, Lock the Gate Victorian Coordinator.
Seaspray farmer Trevor Flint, who addressed the crowd, said, “If the government lets gasfields into Victoria, we’ll pick up where Bentley left off.” Lock the Gate founder Drew Hutton also addressed the adoring crowd, explaining the incredible damage the industry has wrought on the countryside in Queensland and New South Wales. He explained how Victoria would be making history by stopping the industry before it had a chance to do the same here.
The Lock the Gate movement against unconventional gas has brought together an alliance of farmers, environmentalists and community members from across the political spectrum. Politicians from all major parties were invited to the rally, to show their solidarity with communities who want a safe, clean energy future. In attendance were Andrew Katos, Liberal MP for South Barwon, Greg Barber, Victorian Greens Leader, and Eve Fisher, the Acting Mayor for Surf Coast Council. Sadly, neither Daniel Andrews (nor Taylor Swift) could make it, but we’ll make sure to let Daniel Andrews know what happened!
The popular declaration comes as the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into unconventional gas continues, with its final report due on December 1st 2015. The Inquiry received an unprecedented 1,700 submissions, the overwhelming majority of which opposed the unconventional gas industry. Onshore gas is expected to be a key deciding issue in two upcoming by-elections in Western Victoria, including in ex-premier Denis Napthine’s electorate.
Our Coal and Gasfield Free Victoria campaign continues, and will not stop until this state is 100% safe from the threat of Gasfields. If you want to find out more or join the movement, come to our Info Night on Tuesday September 29th, at 6:30pm at Friends of the Earth, 312 Smith Street, Collingwood, or sign up to become a Quit Coal volunteer.
Here are some more happy snaps from the day:
Fossil Free Swinburne made an appearance.
As did Friends of the Earth Melbourne‘s indomitable Cam Walker.
We loved the creative spirit that people brought to creating signs and costumes! Including the Knitting Nanas Against Gas.