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Working together: Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s Stedman Ellis with the Department of Mines and Petroleum deputy director general Michelle Andrews and CSIRO’s Peter Stone.
Ben O'Halloran Working together: Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s Stedman Ellis with the Department of Mines and Petroleum deputy director general Michelle Andrews and CSIRO’s Peter Stone.

Conservation Council of WA has this week accused the Department of Mines and Petroleum of having a conflict of interest around unconventional gas fracking and the region’s looming onshore gas industry.

The allegations came out of a community workshop held on Wednesday in Port Denison, hosted by the department, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association and CSIRO.

Representatives from government and industry did their best to identify and allay the concerns of the Mid West community around the controversial fracking and onshore gas industry.

Key issues around water, land compensation, community engagement, and the role the department played were put on the table and addressed by stakeholders and guest speakers.

CCWA climate and energy spokesman Jamie Hanson said the department had formed an “unhealthy relationship” with APPEA in regard to unconventional gas in the Mid West.

“Instead of protecting West Australians from dodgy operators, the DMP is spending its money trying to convince farmers, health professionals and ordinary householders that they shouldn’t be worried about what the gas fracking industry wants to do to their water,” he said.

“Why is the government co-presenting these events with the mining industry peak group? Surely that pre-empts the result.

“If the DMP were even-handed there’d be representation at these types of events of groups representing both the environment and public health — not just mining.”

Department deputy director general Michelle Andrews acknowledged there was more work to be done to address community concerns, but denied the department had a confl ict of interest as regulator and promoter of the gas industry.

“There’s a concern there about what is the role of DMP,” she said.

“First and foremost we are the State regulator for this sector, there’s nothing we are going to do that’s going to compromise that role.

“We have a statutory obligation around it, we have a commitment to the community and to government, and we’ll be delivering on that.”

APPEA WA director Stedman Ellis said government and industry had common interests and objectives for the emerging onshore gas industry.

“I think there’s a good deal of alignment in terms of objectives,” he said.

“This is an area in where both industry and government have taken a look at the potential ... and said let’s get ahead of this and learn from the things that didn’t work well and make sure we’ve got a robust regulatory and good operating practice.”