A survey to assess community views and understanding about the emerging shale and tight gas industry in Western Australia (WA) was commissioned by the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) in June 2013.
The survey, Community Attitudes Towards Shale Gas, was conducted to identify general community awareness and understanding of the State Government’s regulatory framework and its effectiveness.
The information forms base-line data for DMP which will be updated from time to time with future surveys to help the department to stay across community concerns and information needs related to this potential industry.
The telephone survey was based on a State-wide sample of 402 respondents, as well as samples of approximately 200 respondents from each of the areas where the shale and tight gas industry could potentially be developed, i.e. North Perth, Southern Carnarvon and Canning basins.
One of the main findings of the survey was that the WA community was not sufficiently informed to make the connection between the industry and the primary method it uses to extract gas, hydraulic fracturing (fraccing).
The survey also identified a strong public desire for increased information regarding the shale gas industry and the process used to extract it.
Attitudes towards emerging new industry
At the time of the survey, almost 1 in 2 (45 per cent) Western Australians remained undecided or had mixed feelings regarding WA’s emerging Shale Gas Industry, with 35 per cent either supporting or leaning towards supporting the industry, while 20 per cent were classified as objectors.
Awareness of hydraulic fracturing process
The survey identified that most Western Australians had either never heard of the hydraulic fracturing process (41 per cent) or had heard of it but didn’t know what it involved (27 per cent). Less than 1 in 10 (7 per cent) felt they were confident that they understood the extraction process.
Attitudes towards regulation of shale gas industry
In regard to community attitudes towards the DMP’s ability to regulate the resources sector, almost 1 in 2 respondents (44.8%) felt the department was performing at either a fairly good to very good level in regard to regulation of the oil and gas and mining industries (47.0 per cent).
Another third were "in the middle" feeling the department was doing a "so/so" job in regulating these industries. Similarly, around 1 in 2 survey respondents felt that petroleum companies will protect the environment and do "the right thing" by local community.
Through the survey, Western Australians expressed a strong desire for the distribution of further information regarding the shale gas industry, mainly through the media, with a focus on television and local newspapers. More than 3 in 4 respondents felt that they did not currently have enough information regarding the emerging shale gas industry and what is currently happening in Western Australia. The desire for more information was stronger among females than males.
The information gained from the survey formed the basis for DMP’s Community Engagement program and the development of information sheets and educational material, including the release of the Natural Gas from Shale and Tight rocks – an overview of Western Australia’s Regulatory Framework in January this year. All of this information is available at the DMP website.
DMP has also conducted community information sessions in the areas most likely to be affected by this emerging industry (North Perth, Southern Carnarvon and Canning) to provide information and gather feedback on community concerns and expectations.
DMP will be undertaking further community information sessions in the second half of 2014.