Anti-fracking doco gets State funds

Gareth Parker State Political Editor
A scene from anti-fracking documentary Frackman.

A documentary feature film that is openly hostile to the unconventional gas industry and "fracking" - an industry the Barnett Government wants to see further developed- is being funded by WA taxpayers.

Frackman, directed by Margaret River filmmaker Richard Todd, is the story of "knockabout pig shooter" Dayne Pratzky's battle with a Queensland gas company that demanded access to his land for gas development.

Mr Pratzky is portrayed as an unlikely environmental activist.

The movie, described yesterday by its producer Simon Nasht as a "polemical film", got a $156,000 grant from taxpayer-funded body ScreenWest.

"This is not a documentary that the public broadcasters, the ABC or SBS, would touch with a barge pole," Mr Nasht said.

"In the end, it's our job to stick it up people's noses."

The film is being developed in partnership with anti-coal seam gas group Lock the Gate and left-wing activist group GetUp!.

Fracking is the process of hydraulic fracturing in which chemicals, sand and water are injected into subsurface rocks to create cracks through which gas or oil flows.

Proponents believe it can be safe but opponents fear social and environmental consequences, including water contamination and land-use disputes.

The WA shale gas industry is watching with concern and _The West Australian _understands eyebrows were raised in Cabinet, especially in the offices of Premier Colin Barnett and Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion.

The Government declined to criticise the funding directly.

"The State Government supports the jobs, energy supply and opportunities that a well-regulated shale gas industry can provide for WA families," Acting Premier Kim Hames said.

"However, we also support the independence of the ScreenWest funding selection process, which does not involve State ministers.

"I am advised the ScreenWest board considered this project at length and took into account artistic and production merits."

It is understood ScreenWest's $156,400 grant is about 15 per cent of the film's funding.

ScreenWest chief executive Ian Booth said Frackman met the agency's documentary guidelines, including an acceptable finance plan, spending in WA and strong support from a major national distributor.

Frackman is due to premiere on March 1 with a tour of regional NSW.