Vale George Bender – A farmer’s sacrifice for land and water

George Bender was a much loved successful 68 year old farmer from the Hopeland district 15 km south –east of Chinchilla on the western Darling Downs of Queensland. The Bender family are pioneers in the district having arrived in 1907. Six generations on, they still sustainably farm livestock and crops on the incredibly fertile and irreplaceable Condamine River floodplain soils of Hopeland.

George instinctively knew that the creeping industrialization being inflicted on the area by the coal seam gas companies, was the antithesis of farming sustainability. Every value in his moral compass, honed through a life nurturing his land, was being compromised as he witnessed the degradation of his underground water supplies, while being subjected to relentless pressure to sign a Conduct and Compensation Agreement allowing the construction of a number of CSG wells and associated infrastructure on his beloved property.This would make efficient farming an impossibility.

Tragically, it all became too much pressure for George’s big, kind, loving heart and sadly he passed from our midst on October 14th..

What has Queensland come to when revenue hungry governments collude with mercenary, multi-national resource companies to trample on the rights of Australian landholders and their communities, in such a way that leads conscientious objectors to take their own lives as the ultimate act of protest?

The only just solution to this diabolical situation is for governments to enact legislation that allows farmers to say NO. Otherwise farmers will be forced to “lock their gates” and endure the relentless threats from foreign resource companies to financially and emotionally ruin them by dragging them through the Land Court, where the rules are written by pro mining governments. No wonder farmers perceive the Land Court to be subservient to this current unholy alliance of government and miners.

If George had the choice of an unfettered right to say NO, I can’t help thinking that things would have turned out quite differently. I am committed to honouring George’s memory and supporting his family by relentlessly pursuing his values so that he has not died in vain.