Queensland farmers fighting a Shell and PetroChina (Arrow Energy) plan to drill for coal seam gas on their properties - classified as some of the state’s best agricultural land - say the project would pose a “risk of significant and largely irreversible impacts”.
The four farming families’ concerns have been submitted to the Queensland Palaszczuk Government in response to Arrow’s application to drill 14 gaswells under their prime farmland properties as part of the company's giant Surat Gas Project, which involves the drilling of about 7,500 gaswells between Dalby and Wandoan.
Backed by scientific evidence, the substantial submission from the farmers points to worsening impacts of coal seam gas drilling in the Western Downs region, including sinking land, major erosion, and the draining of water bores as the industry depressurises aquifers.
The farmers also argue Arrow Energy has failed to provide “sufficient evidence that the proposed activities will not impact the priority agricultural area and strategic cropping area under risk, including on properties neighbouring the areas to be drilled”. As well, they say Arrow has relied on outdated information from a decade ago.
Lock the Gate Alliance QLD coordinator Ellie Smith said the farmers’ joint submission rejected the Arrow Energy project as totally incompatible for their closely settled and intensively farmed properties, which are located on the Condamine Floodplain.
“A multinational coal seam gas company should not be allowed to threaten Queensland’s best farmland, particularly not on a floodplain where the risk of contamination from unconventional gas drilling is so great,” she said.
“The Queensland Palaszczuk Government has never refused an application by a gas company to drill on land marked as priority agriculture, but these farmers are determined. There is a first time for everything. We will throw everything and the kitchen sink at the government and Shell and PetroChina to stop the drilling of any more coal seam gas wells into Queensland’s best farmland.”
Springvale farmer Celia Karp said, “Shell and PetroChina’s coal seam gas expansion threatens our ability to provide food and fibre to Queenslanders.
“Coal seam gas companies are targeting the most valuable farming land on the Darling Downs. Thousands of gaswells are planned, with farmers and future generations set to pay a heavy price for the impacts.
“This is the trade off the Palaszczuk Government appears happy to make. This government seems happy to sacrifice the state’s best agricultural country so multinational companies can dig up gas that rightfully belongs to Queenslanders and sell it overseas to the highest bidder.
“No matter which way you look at it, Queenslanders lose.”
Cecil Plains farmer Russell Bennie said, "My family and I have worked with this group of four courageous farmers for years, and have been split from them by Arrow Energy and its use of the Regional Planning Interests Act with the support of the Queensland Government to once again divide widespread community resistance to the relentless onslaught of the unconventional gas extraction industry and all the hazards it brings."
The deadline for the government to make a decision in response to Arrow's RIDA is March 24, however this can be extended.
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There are roughly 9000 coal seam gas wells in production across southern inland Queensland, with that number expected to triple in the next decade.
More than 700 water bores relied on by farmers are expected to run dry.
The Queensland Government has no permanent solution to deal with the many millions of tonnes of toxic waste produced by the coal seam gas industry.
The Queensland Gasfields Commission only acknowledged subsidence was a major risk last year. Its discussion paper found there were clear risks that underground drilling posed to surface activities, and that these risks had not been adequately assessed for gas activities in Queensland.
This is one of two Regional Interest Development Approval (RIDA) applications currently active in the Darling Downs region. Due to loopholes in the legislation, gas companies have avoided applying for RIDAs up until this point.