Lock the Gate Alliance is calling on Queensland’s Palaszczuk Government to urgently overhaul how gas companies access private land following revelations Australia’s largest insurer will no longer cover farmers for public liability if they have coal seam gas (CSG) infrastructure on their property.
Public liability and farm business insurance policies from Insurance Australia Group (IAG), which includes subsidiaries WFI and CGU, do not cover land and water contamination or the risk of farmers losing their industry accreditation in the event of a spill, or gas infrastructure failure.
Farming group Agforce also recently raised concerns about insurers limiting public liability cover for farmers, with a statement on the organisation’s website saying, “it will have a significant impact on many farming operations which may be without public liability cover for external parties, such as CSG company employees”.
Chinchilla broadacre farmer Brian Bender said it was another example of the Palaszczuk Government failing to properly regulate the industry.
“The government approved the coal seam gas industry but didn’t worry about the consequences of its decisions, the politicians were only thinking about themselves and the royalties,” he said.
“The government didn’t worry about the landholder, and now the landholders who can’t get insurance will be going after the State Government for compensation and at the end of the day we’ll all be paying for it.
“I don’t have gas on my property but my neighbour does so companies aren’t going to fully insure us either. We’re downstream, so it’s going to affect our property as well. It’s pretty serious.”
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Rick Humphries said public liability was just the tip of the insurance iceberg for farmers who had CSG and mining operations on their properties.
“Due to the failure of successive governments to take this matter seriously, the gas industry has been able to transfer most, if not all, of the liability and risk onto landholders,” he said.
“Mines Minister Anthony Lynham must act now to ensure the risk and liabilities inherent in CSG development and production are shunted back to the gas industry where they belong. It is gas company infrastructure on these properties, and the companies should be required to insure these assets against operational and catastrophic failure.
“It's about time the Palaszczuk Government put the interests of its citizens above the interests of the gas companies.
“We urgently need a total overhaul of the Conduct and Compensation Agreement process in light of these developments. Currently these agreements do not cover these risks as they do not require gas companies to hold insurance against these risks.
“There are also serious issues with biosecurity, like the introduction of weeds onto a property due to work on CSG infrastructure.
“Beyond these biosecurity risks, farm businesses risk losing their product/industry accreditation like organics, or Meat and Livestock Australia export permits, in the event of an on-farm pollution or contamination incident, or by the mere presence of CSG operations on their property.”
At the end of last financial year, there were 6,741 active CSG wells across inland Queensland, with many of those wells on private property.
The revelations are the latest of several recent concerning developments that show the toll CSG and mining is taking on Queensland’s agricultural sector.
Last year the office of groundwater impact assessment showed more than 100 water bores on the Western Downs had been drained by the CSG industry, and warned more than 500 others will likely be drained as the industry expands.
Then earlier this year a Queensland Audit Office report found successive Queensland governments had effectively lost track of the CSG industry to the detriment of landholders and communities.