Liability doubts shock landholders
The Basin Sustainability Alliance (BSA), a group representing landholders and rural communities, is urging Meat and Livestock Australia to release a report that is believed to shed light on who is liable in the event that CSG and mining related activity causes contamination in cattle and other livestock.
BSA Chair David Hamilton said the group was shocked to hear the news this week that a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) funded report, initiated by the Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) and the Australian Lot Feeders Association (ALFA) had been kept secret for more than 12 months.
“We can only assume, by the fact that the report has been withheld, that the news is not good for cattle producers or for that matter any other livestock producers who are required to sign a National Vendor Declaration (NVD) on the sale of their livestock,” Mr Hamilton said.
He said the background to the concern is the fine issued to Santos for contamination of an aquifer in NSW.
“While this event has not caused any contamination to livestock, it has highlighted that there is a risk of contamination from CSG operations. BSA is keen to understand the legal implications of this risk, should livestock be contaminated.
“At a time when government and industry are promoting coexistence, it is vital that landholders have a full understanding of what risks they are facing with CSG activity on their land or nearby properties.
“It would be outrageous to think that a livestock producer who does all the right things in his or her own operation could be held liable for the actions of the CSG industry, especially when you consider that landholders do not have any legal right to deny the CSG industry entry to their properties.”
Mr Hamilton said it was critical that landholders would not be left to assume the risk of the new industry if it was found to be contaminating their food products and affecting long term markets.
“Firstly the report needs to be made public and if it shows that livestock producers are legally exposed, then it is critical that liability from CSG or mining activity does not attach to the livestock producer. Somehow this liability needs to be shifted.
“This is another problem, not of the livestock producers’ making, that comes at a time when most are facing one of the worst droughts in history.