GasFields has urged local government leaders from across regional Queensland to keep informed about the impacts and opportunities for their communities from the onshore gas industry.
GasFields Commissioner, John Cotter made the call during his address to delegates at the recent Local Government Association of Queensland’s (LGAQ) Bush Council’s conference in St George.
Mr Cotter highlighted the contribution of both the agriculture and resource industries in underpinning the economy of many regional communities across Queensland.
He said the onshore gas industry over recent years, in particular the Surat Basin, has brought many new opportunities to those communities including jobs, business spending, improved roads and other local infrastructure.
“The reality is these new roads, airports and other major infrastructure would not have occurred without the development of the onshore gas industry, and now agriculture and other sectors like tourism can also look to benefit from these investments.”
Mr Cotter acknowledged the size and pace of the recent onshore gas industry expansion had also created many issues and challenges for local governments and their communities such as housing affordability, traffic increases and demographic changes.
“From the Commission’s experience working closely with local governments and the gas operators we know the importance of local Councils being proactive in seeking relevant and factual information and to engage directly with these explorers and developers in their region.
“There is a wealth of information that Councils can draw on from government, industry and the Commission that can assist local communities to better understand the current and potential types of onshore gas industry development and their impacts.
“The Commission has even developed its own simple checklist of issues for local governments to consider when engaging with the onshore gas industry,” he said.
Mr Cotter said the Commission is ready and able to support and assist local government leaders to better understand and manage their relationships with the onshore gas industry and in turn help ensure they can maximise benefits for their communities.
Facts over fear – sharing the science
Leading soil scientist and GasFields Commissioner, Professor Steven Raine, also addressed delegates at the Bush Councils Conference, highlighting the important role of science in helping improve community understanding and trust in the onshore gas industry.
Professor Raine outlined the wide range of science that has been undertaken in Queensland and Australia by agencies such as CSIRO, universities, industry and government relating to key issues such as groundwater, hydraulic fracturing, well integrity and gas emissions.
He said the main challenge has been trying to improve the communication of this often highly complex and technical data in a way that is readily accessible and easily understood by the broader community, of whom may have had little or no understanding of this industry.
“Improving the communication of the science remains a key focus for the Commission which has also published a range of technical communication papers drawing on the work of research agencies to provide simple and easy-to-read explanations and information on these coexistence issues.”
Professor Raine said the Commission is available to brief local councils on the science and relevant issues for their region and communities, and can bring in other scientific experts as required.
Industry transparency and regulation
Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines’ Coal Seam Gas Compliance Unit (CSGCU), Bill Date, was also on hand at the Bush Councils Conference highlighted the strong regulatory framework governing the onshore gas industry in Queensland.
He explained his team’s auditing and compliance role for the onshore gas industry including their groundwater assessment unit which is working directly with landholders to improve understanding and monitoring of groundwater issues.
During the conference, the GasFields Commissioners also held a separate meeting with Mayors from across Western Queensland to listen to and discuss some of their specific issues relating to current and potential future shale and tight gas exploration activity in those regions.