Lock the Gate Alliance and Darling Downs farmers have welcomed Toowoomba Regional Council’s call for a moratorium on new coal seam gas approvals within its local government area.
The motion, which was passed unanimously by councillors yesterday afternoon, comes after a delegation of farmers made a deputation to Council at a council meeting last month to voice their concerns surrounding coal seam gas development over the Condamine Alluvial Floodplain.
It also coincides with a legal seminar at Cecil Plains today, where farmers will be provided with information to help them in the event they are approached by coal seam gas companies wanting to access their land. Recently, farmers and community members held a large meeting at Cecil Plains to voice their concerns about coal seam gas, which was attended by Independent Senator David Pocock.
The State Government is also currently consulting on changes to the Regional Planning Interest Act that regulates mining on Prime Agricultural Land.
Arrow Energy, a joint venture of Shell and PetroChina, is attempting to drill more than 7000 gas wells for its Surat Gas Project between Cecil Plains and Wandoan.
Cecil Plains farmer Liza Balmain welcomed the council’s support.
“We are delighted that the Toowoomba Regional Council has taken this valiant, strong and proactive stand to protect our region’s invaluable natural assets including our pivotal prime agriculture, our environment, and our groundwater resources, relied upon by so many regional residents,” she said.
“It is so encouraging to see a council listening to its local communities and advocating for the precautionary principle to protect the future food, water, and climate security of our region.
“Toowoomba council has shown itself to be an outstanding, visionary, and progressive council which we applaud whole-heartedly.”
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland Coordinator Ellie Smith said, “This vote from Toowoomba councillors shows they understand where the long term economic and social base of the region lies: with farmers and not a multinational petroleum company that will wreak havoc and then leave. Councillors should be commended for taking this step.
“Much of the farmland in the Toowoomba Regional Council area is Prime Agricultural land and Strategic Cropping Land, so Arrow Energy still needs approvals from the Queensland Government to drill here.
“We hope the Queensland Government recognises the Toowoomba Regional Council’s opposition to new gas approvals and refuses any application to drill on the state’s best farmland. While councils have little direct say when it comes to coal seam gas drilling, opposition by councils has been extremely powerful in other parts of Queensland where planned gas and mining projects have not gone ahead, like the Scenic Rim and Bundaberg.
“The Palaszczuk Government ought to respect the views of local councillors and local farmers. Annastacia Palaszczuk has created a reputation for herself as a premier who understands the bush. Here is her chance to show she means it. She ought to side with farmers protecting our best farmland for the future.
“But instead, the government is currently considering changes to the Act that were put in place to protect farmland. There is a real risk the Palaszczuk Government will wash its hands of one of the biggest threats to prime agricultural land - the sinking of farmland due to coal seam gas induced subsidence.
“At a time when local farmers and the local council are calling for a moratorium on new approvals in part because of this huge threat to slope-dependent farmland, it would be negligent for the government to ignore subsidence in the assessment of impacts on prime agricultural land.”
The full video of Council proceedings is here (Mayoral motion at 1hr 42. Move to call a Moratorium (by Bill Cahill at 6 hr 37).