Wright Electorate: Coal Seam Gas
Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (9.50 pm)—I rise in the House to draw the attention of my colleagues to some matters which affect my electorate. I note that I have received advice from the Queensland Farmers’ Federation and wish to acknowledge their contribution in this speech. The minister has recently announced approvals for liquefied natural gas facilities at Gladstone. This is the downstream outlet for the coal seam gas which will be extracted from my electorate of Wright and other electorates in regional Queensland. This decision will likely trigger other coal seam gas projects throughout the Surat Basin. The rapid expansion of the industry is outpacing science and frightening landowners on whom the properties and the well heads are being constructed. While the agricultural industry does not wish to stand against developments that support a diverse economy, concerns remain about the slow planning process surrounding coal seam gas, particularly in light of the myriad scientific details that remain still under debate.
Just last week, AgForce and other groups called for a moratorium on coal seam gas. The Queensland Farmers’ Federation raised the prospect of a moratorium six months ago, indicating there was a strong argument for government to adopt precautionary principles with coal seam gas development, given the government has been willing to quickly do this for other areas of state planning. The farming and rural interests want a fair policy for strategic cropping land in Queensland. Without appropriate safeguards there is potential for damage to farmland, underground water, and the environment. The risk is now heightened following the approvals for the liquid gas facility at Gladstone.
These concerns were exacerbated early last week with reports that testing in eight exploratory wells near Miles had revealed traces of BTEX chemicals—that is, benzene, toluene, ethylene and xylene. While these traces were small, it demonstrates the importance of protecting agricultural land and rural residents who rely on underground water for stock and domestic consumption. Repressurisation and connectivity of underground reserves cannot be guaranteed but need to be taken seriously.
We do not want to see a repeat of the proposed Murray-Darling Basin plan. The water minister has indicated in this place that he has ordered a review of the Water Act legislation in relation to the Murray-Darling overview and I would urge him to widen that review to include the impact of coal seam gas on regional Queensland’s underground water resources. We need to know whether the Water Act can actually deliver on the triple bottom line aspirations that good policy would require.
It seems curious that at the very time the minister has approved the coal seam gas projects we have also seen the launch of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, which I will refer to as the alliance. As I said in my maiden speech, my electorate contains some of the most productive agricultural land in Australia—the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim districts. Given its close proximity to major markets, this farmland represents a strategic resource which goes to the heart of our food security. The alliance has been launched with a view to cementing Queensland’s position as an international leader in tropical and subtropical agriculture and food research. The alliance is a new institute of the University of Queensland, which runs its Gatton campus in my electorate. We need to know whether the minister’s approval for coal seam gas projects has taken this initiative into account. Under the alliance, plant, animal and food scientists will work together to develop new technologies and practices to benefit these important industries.
It is hoped that the alliance will strengthen Queensland’s collective capacity to deliver high-impact research and development outcomes in areas that will not only benefit Queensland industries, but will also put Queensland on the map as a world leader in tropical and subtropical agriculture and food research. The range of research to be undertaken at the alliance is extensive and highly industry focused The outcomes are expected to return millions of dollars to Queensland agriculture and food industries in the future. Therefore, I urge the minister to take these matters seriously and provide some assurance to my electors that their interests are being considered. In summary, I would urge the minister to widen the review of the Water Act legislation in relation to the Murray- Darling overview to include the impact of coal seam gas on regional Queensland’s underground water resources.