“Drill-Watch!” Preparing community resources to resist onshore gas exploration in Victoria
In response to recent state government announcements to open up vast areas of agricultural lands to exploration and drilling for gas in the Gippsland and Otway basins, DrillWatch emerged as way to re-engage and collaborate with the communities involved in Friends of the Earth Melbourne’s Gasfield Free Campaign in Gippsland and the Southwest of Victoria.
With a view to combine citizen science and community organising, the DrillWatch resource has been designed to show current gas developments and allow communities to log information like proposed gas infrastructure, community consultations, and drill rig sightings, and coordinate their resistance to any planned exploration or drilling. This accompanies a shift in the community’s focus from political lobby efforts, to organised resistance to companies seeking permission to extract gas from agricultural landscapes.
Over the course of the project, Friends of the Earth has collaborated with communities in Gippsland and the South West of the state to develop resources, identify threats, and produce useful information for communities at risk, launched the DrillWatch website, and maintained a consistent public dialogue on the increasing threats of gas on three fronts; the opening of exploration of onshore gas drilling in regional Victoria, planned expansion of existing offshore gas drilling in Victorian state coastal waters, and planned expansion of existing offshore gas drilling in Commonwealth waters between Victoria and Tasmania.
The temporary ban (moratorium) on conventional onshore drilling was lifted on 1 July 2021. This has left areas in Gippsland and South West Victoria exposed to gas exploration. Communities are rallying to resist fossil gas both onshore and offshore and the DrillWatch website will continue to evolve to support the community resistance.
With the DrillWatch website now live, community members are uploading their knowledge to the site, identifying existing infrastructure, community groups and relevant politicians and industry contacts. Exploration sites are listed along with details of permits and their approval status.