Call for candidates to address critical issues

The Basin Sustainability Alliance (BSA) has called on all Political parties and their candidates to address critical issues with CSG development in Queensland.

BSA chair Lyn Nicholson said that there were still unresolved concerns, including the effectiveness of make good agreements, the difficulties with landholders and communities trying to co exist, and falling royalty income for taxpayers.

“What the government is failing to understand is that in a dry continent with limited water supplies and changing weather patterns, people will have a greater reliance on ground water in the future. Recent climatic conditions have highlighted the fact that bore water has to be relied upon when surface water reserves evaporate,” Ms Nicholson said.

As it stands the legislation which regulates ground water allocations is ambivalent in regard to how companies may be required to make good their impacts on landholders’ ground water resources.

“In many cases it is not possible to replace lost water with new water because of the low rate of natural recharge of all aquifers. As the gas companies admit themselves, the recharge of aquifers will take centuries. This leaves landholders with the only option of accepting negotiated monetary compensation. This option is totally unacceptable to most farmers as they need the water for their grazing and farming enterprises to remain viable now and in the future. The impact of CSG activities on ground water resources could amount to the virtual theft of water from future generations.

“Co-existence” is a problematic issue. The industry and Government expect farmers to make all the concessions to facilitate coexistence. These concessions are often given under duress and there is no independent and effective umpire. It is not possible to live in peace with one another if a huge cloud of uncertainty and potentially business and lifestyle destroying impacts hangs over one party. Rather current mining company access to private farming land effectively amounts to forced access and not “co-existence” in the true definition of the word,” Ms Nicholson said.

With the recent sudden decline in oil prices and gas prices there is obvious downward pressure on the income that Government is going to receive from CSG mining. BSA is concerned that this downturn in oil prices means that the promised monetary benefits from royalties will be insufficient to address the   predicted future environmental impacts of CSG activity.

Estimates by the previous Labor and current Qld LNP Governments that the CSG industry would deliver a royalty bonanza of an annual $800Million, plus thousands of permanent jobs and boom-time economic prosperity across the Surat and Bowen Basins are being exposed as wildly inaccurate and irresponsible.

A recent article in The Australian (Jan 9th) titled “Oil Price Plunge threat to Qld Budget” pointed out that petroleum and gas royalties contributed a paltry $69M in 2013-14. Alarmingly, in the latest mid year revision, expected revenues for 2014-15 were slashed from $199M to $71M.

“These latest revisions throw serious doubt on whether the $800 million projected royalty figure will ever be achieved. It is looking increasingly more likely that the touted financial benefits from CSG activity will be outweighed by the costs of all the CSG impacts, both current and future,” Ms Nicholson said.

The contention by Government and industry that CSG would add 18,000 new jobs in the Surat Basin has been largely discredited. A Social and Economic Project by Gisera has shown that there has only been a net increase of 1392 jobs between 2006 and 2011.