Voices from Gloucester: Karen's story
Karen O’Brien has built a business from the ground up turning a herb growing hobby into a thriving tourism and farming venture, five minutes south of the town of Gloucester. Busloads of tourists now flock to Karen’s small rural residential block overlooking the majestic Bucketts Mountains to sample the fragrant herb farm’s bounty and enjoy fresh scones and herbal teas. But Karen’s years of hard work in developing a niche business in an idyllic environment is now under threat with coal seam gas frackers already encroaching on her neighbourhood and coal miners planning an open cut pit at the end of her street. Since the miners moved into the Gloucester area Karen’s community has been divided, her once quiet road has been plagued by constant traffic and her family now fears for their future. “Before the mining we had a beautiful, rural, residential tourism area,” Karen said.
“I will not live in a gasfield and I will not live with an open cut coal mine down the end of my street. “Where are we going to get our food? Where are our rural people going to live?”
Karen is concerned at what fracking will do to the clean water that supports her small business and keeps her much sought after herbs growing and she is worried by the impact of the constant stream of mine related traffic that now rumbles past her farm gate. “I’m worried about water. I’m worried about the flaring and what that burns off. I’m worried about what they are putting in the ground.” Fellow tourism operator John Sergeant who runs the successful Tops Organic Retreat on the edge of the nearby Barrington Top’s World Heritage Park is also concerned that fracking is being allowed to develop in the prized tourism and agricultural region. He says his business had been growing by 10 per cent every year and the tourism industry is worth an estimated $40 million a year to the Gloucester region. “When you have got something so pristine why wreck it,” he said.
“We cannot let them stuff our water supply up.”