Furious Western Downs farmers have staged a walkout during a Queensland Gasfields Commission information session in Dalby after their concerns weren’t addressed, and are now calling for an immediate halt to the expansion of the coal seam gas industry.
About 10 farmers walked out of the commission's information session together, after the commissioner and their representatives were unable to address farmers’ concerns.
The move comes as pressure mounts on the Queensland Palaszczuk Government to overhaul laws governing land access for gas companies and drilling on prime agricultural land, following numerous breaches by Shell and PetroChina owned Arrow Energy.
Farmers say the law unfairly favours gas companies, even when the company is in the wrong, and are calling for an immediate halt to any more gas drilling in Queensland.
Chinchilla landholder advocate Shay Dougall said the farmers attended the information session fully prepared to listen to the Gasfields Commission if it was willing to do more than pay lip service to their concerns.
“Unfortunately what farmers got was more of the same. More of being talked down to, more of a government body that is meant to listen to their concerns instead acting like a mouthpiece for government and industry,” she said.
“Farmers shouldn’t have to take time away from their business of growing food and fibre for Australians, just so they can attend a so-called information session where they are told to shut up and put up with gas companies trashing their land.
“Arrow Energy in particular has treated farmers with contempt, and the Queensland Palaszczuk Government has failed to put in satisfactory laws to hold gas companies accountable.
“The barely-regulated expansion of coal seam gas in Queensland must stop now. The farmers who walked out of the meeting are calling for a moratorium on further CSG development until their concerns have been addressed.
“The most recent Underground Water Impact Report finally admitted farmland is sinking thanks to CSG induced subsidence, yet the government has no plan to remediate this land or to compensate farmers.
“This is a sorry tale that is told each time we learn about new destructive impacts the gas industry is having as it expands on the Western Downs. Nearly two years after it was revealed some insurance companies were refusing to offer third party cover to farmers who had CSG infrastructure on their properties, this issue is yet to be resolved.”
Arrow Energy was recently fined $1 million for illegally drilling deviated coal seam gas wells beneath farmers’ land without their permission, but Ms Dougal said the fine was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to bad behaviour by gas companies on the Downs.
“There are serious questions that need to be asked about whether Arrow even has the appropriate planning approvals to be drilling on Prime Agricultural Land and Strategic Cropping Land - the best farming land in the state,” Ms Dougall said.
“Meanwhile, this arrogant multinational gas company is being allowed to continue expanding across Queensland’s best farmland. That’s why we’re calling on the government to immediately halt the coal seam gas industry and put in place a moratorium on new drilling until farmers’ serious concerns are addressed.”