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Coal Seam Gas


AGL is still engaged in a community fight with Hunter Valley vineyards and horse studs over its Hunter gas project. AGL Energy have not ruled out using fracking in the Hunter Valley

Winemaker Bruce Tyrrell says: ‘Our industry has been in the Hunter for nearly 200 years and, along with wine tourism, we are a fully sustainable industry that can prosper for another 200 years and beyond. The CSG operators will be gone inside 50 years and no one knows how big a mess they will leave.’

AGL turns Hunter Valley wineries into gas fields

AGL has bought six properties totalling around 100 hectares in the the famous Hunter Valley wine region in recent years and owns another five in nearby Gloucester, where it has gained conditional approval for 330 gas wells.

AGL bought two Hunter Valley properties in October 2011 - the Pooles Rock Vineyard from the estate of David Clarke for $2.85 million and the Yellow Rock Estate, which adjoins Clarke’s former property.

Former NSW Premier Nick Greiner's company Setrave sold his 48-hectare "Spring Mountain" property near Broke in 2009 as it suited his “personal circumstance at the time.” AGL immediately started drilling exploration wells for coal seam gas on the vineyard.

The Hunter Valley Protection Alliance is lobbying the state government to declare parts of the Hunter off limits to gas extraction. They are concerned that gas wells will damage the wine and tourism industry, while also threatening productive grazing land and groundwater.

Pooles Rock Vineyard

2 January 2013 - Drilling started on the Pooles Rock Vineyard in the Broke Fordwich subregion. AGL calls them "water bores" to determine how it extracts coal seam gas from under the property at Broke and, by drilling horizontally, from under neighbouring properties.

 David Clarke AO, former Chairman of the Royal Sydney Wine Show and co-founder and Executive Chairman of Macquarie Bank, who died of cancer in April 2011, was one of NSW's strongest opponents of coal seam gas wells.

He funded anti-mining campaigns, spoke at rallies and posted signs on his land rejecting coal seam gas. 300 people staged a protest at the front gate of Pooles Rock on the news of the sale to AGL.

“The purchase of Pooles Rock was a destabilising tactic by AGL designed to create panic,” says Stuart Ewen, a property industry veteran and leading member of the Hunter Valley Protection Alliance.

“The sale would go against every wish David Clarke would have had,” says Ewen. “It is being viewed as highly provocative.”

Wine produced at Mr Clarke's former vineyard can no longer be described as coming from Pooles Rock Vineyard.

AGL brands its wines with the Spring Mountain Wines label once owned by former NSW premier Nick Greiner.

David Clarke made arrangements for the sale of the Pooles Rock and Cockfighter's Ghost names to his neighbour Brian Agnew, owner of Audrey Wilkinson. James Agnew, general manager of Audrey Wilkinson, is now general manager of Pooles Rock.

AGL agreed to continue operating the 35-hectare chardonnay vineyard.

"The purpose of drilling the water bores into the upper fresh water aquifers is to enable them to measure whether or not the levels drop when they start fracking," said Graeme Gibson, from the Hunter Valley Protection Alliance.

Yellow Rock Estate

As a condition of the
October 2011 sale, the company agreed to preserve any buildings or items of heritage value on Yellow Rock and to consult a landscape architect to “ensure future operations do not interfere with the visual amenity of the local area”.

The AGL exploration licences in the Hunter were purchased as part of a $171 million takeover of Sydney Gas in late 2008 which valued the two Hunter exploration licences were valued at $115 million. AGL paid $370 million for an exploration licence near Gloucester owned by the AJ Lucas Group and Molopo Australia.

Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association (HVWIA)

AGL joined the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association although they were expelled in 2011, the only expulsion ever, as ‘their activities were considered prejudicial to the interests of the association’, said president Andrew Margan.

The vineyard association’s position is that CSG is totally incompatible with viticulture, winemaking and wine tourism. It is concerned about the possible pollution of water, land and the environment by hydraulic fracturing for CSG, and says that while doubt about its safety remains, it should not occur at all.

"CSG exploration and mining just don't belong in Australia's most iconic winery region," HVWIA president Andrew Margan said

"There's been no evidence of the mining and wine industries being able to work collaboratively or co-exist."

"Unsightly gas wells and rigs are a blight on the local landscape and are a threat to underwater aquifers," said Mr Margan.

"We've been here before. During the 1980s the mining industry looked into opening up the upper Hunter using the promise of 'co-existence'. The upper Hunter has been lost to wine and tourism," said Bruce Tyrrell.

AGL effects Hunter Valley land values

“Some people will wrongly believe that if they don’t sell now, the value of their property could be wiped out.” Ewen, a former NSW president of the Property Council of Australia, says AGL is making strategic land purchases around the Broke area as many locals have denied the company access to their properties.

“They can’t negotiate the land access agreements so they have gone ahead and bought the land,” he says. “If they own a lot of land they will attempt to put pressure on the NSW government to grant them approval [to explore and process gas].”

AGL

“It it is our belief that over time we will demonstrate to the community that the coal seam gas industry is low-impact, safe, clean and can co-exist alongside farming, wine-making and other agricultural industries,” AGL said.

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