There was a very loud applause from the audience of 150 concerned Geelong citizens who attended the council meeting on Tuesday evening 22 July 2014 whenever a question had been asked to the Geelong councillors about whether the invasive gas mining and fracking industry will be allowed to begin its toxic industrialisation in areas of City of Greater Geelong and about the council’s community consultation procedures.
“This is not about protesting. This is about advocating for plain common sense. Why should we turn Geelong region into an invasive gasfield industrial zone when we have clean, renewable energy sources that make a lot more common sense in every aspect – economically, environmentally and climate-wise?,” said Mik Aidt, a Geelong resident, father of three children aged between five and nine years, and – in particular for that reason – a founding member of Frack Free Geelong.
Council resolved at the meeting on to commence a 30 day process to educate Council on the issue of ‘fracking’. Council’s general manager Gary van Driel explained in a letter sent to Frack Free Geelong on 28 July about the expectations and dates of the process:
“Council will be seeking advise from relevant State government departments and agencies as well as experts in various fields. Council will also review any information provided by community groups and individuals.
This process will be followed by Council taking public submissions on the issue of coal seam gas mining, and in particular, the ‘fracking’ process for a period of one month commencing 24th August 2014.
The process outlined will provide opportunity for Council to consider its position regarding coal seam gas mining which can then be reflected in the Environmental Management Strategy.”
Reports from the meeting
At the bottom of this page you will find the Geelong Advertisers report on what happened at the Geelong City Council’s meeting:
“In bringing a notice of motion, Cr Andy Richards explained that as part of the council’s Environment Management strategy’s public consultation process it became apparent the city would have to deal with concerns surrounding the practice of Coal Seam Gas Extraction, or in particular the practice of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’. He noted concerns included the impact on quality and quantity of the region’s water supply; the impact on health from toxic chemicals, and the impact of heavy vehicles on the community. He moved that the council take public submissions on Coal Seam Gas Extraction, particulary fracking, for one month, and a submission report be presented to the council. (…)
Cr Stretch Kontelj suggested the notice of motion be deferred but that was defeated on a show of hands.
Cr Kylie Fisher moved an amendment, arguing for a 30-day process to educate councillors in fracking be undertaken followed by taking public submissions for a month and that a submission report be presented to council as part of the environmental management strategy.
Cr Fisher said it was important that the city would be working through a process and taking public submissions.
Cr Nelson said he knew a little about fracking and it concerned him but that more time than 30 days was needed to understand the issue. The motion was passed with Cr Nelson voting against.”
» Geelong Advertiser – 24 July 2014:
Fracking – councillors to be educated
Members of the Frack Free Geelong group decided today to call for an open anti-fracking strategy meeting on Thursday 31 July at 7pm at Trades Hall in the Auditorium, 127 Meyers Street.
» Read more
How will Geelong Council involve the community in its decision-making processes about fracking?
The following update as to what happened at the Geelong City Council’s meeting is written by Alan Manson from Frack Free Grovedale. It was sent via email to the members of Frack Free Geelong
At least 50 people supporting our cause arrived outside Council’s chambers prior to the meeting. There were two big groups in attendance that evening – the C300 Building Planning group and our Fracking group. It was standing room only. We had plenty of placards on parade, and because of this managed to educate the occasional C300 person about Fracking.
During Question Time, Ingrid Flood asked the following question:
I am aware that Council has been attending to the issue of ‘fracking’ in relation to it Environmental Management Strategy report that is yet to become available, and that fracking was to be included in the final version of the EMS.
I am also aware that Council indicated in its 8th July meeting it had changed its mind by saying the fracking report would no longer be included in the EMS but dealt with by Council in the first meeting to be held in August.
Since then, I also understand Council’s City Services General Manager (Garry Van Driel) has written to Lyn Manson stating that Council will shortly invite public submissions regarding the issue of gas fracking for a period of one month.
I read on page 166 of Council’s Agenda for tonight, Cr. Andy Richards is putting forward a motion that says:
“Council take public submissions regarding the issue of Coal Seam Gas Extraction and in particular fracking, for a period of one month commencing 23 July 2014.”
My concerns here are that the General Manager says Council will “shortly invite public submissions … for a period of one month” and that Cr. Richards is moving that the one month period commences tomorrow – the day after this meeting ends.
Don’t these statements oppose Council’s recently announced Community Engagement Policy that was approved by your CEO as recently as the 8th July?
In Council’s document CPL10.2 Community Engagement Policy, Council has agreed to implement the procedures and guidelines that are in accordance with the IAP2 standards, which includes Council’s commitment to INFORM, CONSULT, INVOLVE, COLLABORATE and EMPOWER the community in its decision-making processes.
In the issue of fracking and the statements referred to above, it is clear that the IAP2 procedures are being swept aside.
If Council is genuinely committed towards applying IAP2’s core values into the fracking issue, shouldn’t this mean that Council should commence establishing information for the public to become educated about fracking on its website, libraries and other public places prior to commencing the period in which submissions are to be received?
My question is directed to the Mayor.
Should the proposed Notice of Motion tonight be amended to read that “Council immediately implement its Community Engagement policy by establishing information throughout the Geelong region about fracking in accordance with IAP2 standards prior to implementing a 30 day period for submissions to be received.”
The CPL10.2 document Ingrid Flood referred to was pivotal, because it explains how Council should be conducting their investigations into Fracking by implementing the procedures they have previously agreed to last meeting.
If Council implemented this policy, this would mean that:
1. Council should put information that presents the pros and the cons of Fracking on their website;
2. Establish a display area about Fracking in each of its libraries;
3. Advertise the displays to the public in the media;
4. Advertise the opening and closing dates for submissions to be received;
5. Be accountable in their processing of the public’s submissions (e.g. the contents of each submission received should be posted on their website);
6. Be transparent in the manner they conduct any public consultations;
7. Hold a public meeting to allow public discussion regarding the content of the report the Councillors will be using to vote on, which should contain comments from Council officers together with comments from the submissions received.
Establishing such a process would then permit the Geelong community the opportunity to become fully educated on ‘unconventional gas’ mining and sufficiently informed to fully ‘engage with Council’ to determine a policy.
However, the Council meeting saw councillors adding an additional period of time to that suggested in the Notice of Motion. They increased it from 30 days commencing Wednesday (23rd July) during which time the Councillors will educate themselves on the pros and cons of CSG mining followed by a further 30 day period in which submissions will be received from the public.
Although some people within the Frack Free group considered this was a good outcome, the reality is that had Council applied its CPL10.2 Community Engagement Policy document as it should have, this would mean the onus would be on Council to undertake the community education process whereas now, the requirement falls back on a few in the community to find the mammoth resources needed to undertake the community education process, and to motivate the community to make a choice whether to put in a submission or not. Naturally, such a task is doomed to fail unless a miracle happens.
Also, it seems unfair that Council are in no way seeking to disclose if they will adopt any recognised procedure relating to:
What sources of information councillors will use relating to CSG mining? Could it be political party propaganda or possibly mining company literature? Who knows?
Would they accept and use information given to them from sources (say) Frack Free Geelong?
What process do they have in place regarding the processing of the submissions so that the community can feel that their voice has been responded to?
In view of the above irregularities in this process and especially that Council has effectively circumvented its own CPL10.2 Community Engagement Policy (thereby making it null and void) I believe everyone in Geelong should write to the councillors and require them to give their reasons why they voted to avoid using the CPL10.2 Community Engagement Policy document.
At the Council meeting I handed out flyers (below) that omitted the date of the meeting. I did try to correct the error before people went into the meeting, but some may not have heard.
If you know of anyone who received a flyer, please advise them the meeting is next Thursday the 31st July.
Below is a copy of the newspaper article emailed to the media for publication.
Hope to see you next Thursday!!
Frack Free Grovedale
Council decision on fracking postponed to September
Councilors admit during debate on Coal Seam Gas mining (commonly known as Fracking) they have little knowledge about the subject and need time to do some research.
By Alan Manson
More than 50 people from the Geelong community attended last Tuesday’s Ordinary Council Meting to express their concerns regarding Council’s attitude towards the possibility of Fracking occurring in the region despite a moratorium being in place.
During question time, Armstrong Creek resident Dan Cowdell asked why Council can’t adopt the same position as the Surf Coast Council has; and Hamlyn Heights resident Fleur Brique explained how she and her family have experienced Fracking operations in Lismore NSW first hand and the disaster it had inflicted upon the entire region. She warned councilors that those in authority overseas who had approved Fracking operations were now being personally sued for damages, and were councilors aware of this.
Grovedale resident Ingrid Flood reminded Council that at their last meeting, they agreed to implement their CPL10.2 Community Engagement Policy (CEP) that incorporates the IAP2 standards that requires Council to “INFORM, CONSULT INVOLVE, COLLABORATE and EMPOWER the community in its decision-making processes”.
Council’s history with Fracking has been quite the opposite approach, as Fracking did not appear in their draft Environmental Management Strategy (EMS) document late last year, and it was only through the community’s responses received earlier this
year that Council chose to investigate the matter further.
Council initially announced it would include Fracking in the revised EMS; but then decided to separate the EMS report for debate in their first August meeting, which was a process that excluded any community participation. Last Tuesday’s meeting voted to allow a 30 day period for Councilors to gain their own understanding about the issues related to Fracking while allocating a further 30 day period to receive submissions from the public prior to them voting on it some time in September.
Despite interjections from the gallery they were ignoring their CEP obligations that made their handling of the Fracking issue a mockery, Council continued to vote the motion through.
Considering the devastating environmental, human health, groundwater contamination and road transport issues this industry has had on communities throughout many countries of the world, Council’s hypocritical approach to their Community Engagement Policy left those in the gallery ‘fracked-off’.
A public meeting for those interested in helping to educate the Geelong community about Fracking will be held in the Trades Hall Auditorium on Thursday 31st July at 7pm.
Alan Manson, Frack Free Grovedale