How Queensland farmers reached harmony with gas companies

Dalby cotton farmer Ian Hayllor helped start the Basin Sustainability Alliance campaigning for gas industry transparency and is now a commissioner on the Queensland Gasfields Commission.
Dalby cotton farmer Ian Hayllor helped start the Basin Sustainability Alliance campaigning for gas industry transparency and is now a commissioner on the Queensland Gasfields Commission.

THE COAL seam gas industry is big business in Queensland.

From west of Toowoomba to Roma and north to Moranbah there are thousands of wells, hundreds of waste-water dams and treatment plants, power plants and powerlines, and thousands of kilometres of gas and water pipelines.

Given the climate against coal seam gas here in NSW, many might expect Queensland farmers to be rallying against the industry in numbers.

How the Queensland and NSW gas industries compare

But the reality is quite different.

Concerns over "disastrous" impacts on ground-water, which dominate the NSW debate, are yet to be proven by the Queensland experience and some farmers have instead seen big benefits.

Following some improvements many farmers have now cautiously accepted the industry.

Cotton farmer Ian Hayllor, who founded the Basin Sustainability Alliance (BSA) four years ago to address his and fellow farmers' concerns over the "uninvited" gas industry, is among those who have adjusted their mindset.

"My attitude right from the start was I don't need them here. I knew I had no right to stop the community accessing it but I had every right to make it sustainable," Mr Hayllor said.

"I wasn't going to let it progress if there was a threat to our future."

But instead of clashing with the industry, BSA in its early days identified specific needs.

It lobbied government and the industry for fairer access agreements, more transparency about the science of the industry and accountability for any impacts.

Mr Hayllor hosted a drilling study on the connection between coal seams and aquifers with bores that pumped water continuously at high pressure for a month and found only a "miniscule" connection between the coal seam and the shallower aquifer.

There are now "make-good" agreements in place for any farming bores forecast to be impacted by the industry, where farmers can have a new bore drilled or receive cash. To date, 85 bores of 21,000 in the Surat Basin are predicted to be affected.

There are now 721 water-monitoring bores in Queensland drilled specifically to measure any impacts on the water table.

Farmers are also no longer bound by confidentiality clauses.

Perhaps the biggest achievement was the formation of the Queensland GasFields Commission, an independent statutory body designed to oversee the industry and ensure a fair deal for everyone.

Today Mr Hayllor, now one of seven GasFields commissioners, said he believed the bulk of the community's concerns had been addressed; that the situation for farmers was "light years" ahead.

In contrast, he said the Lock the Gate organisation hadn't evolved its message and was stuck in an oppositional rut that wasn't constructive.

There are still concerns in places like the Cecil Plains, a bountiful region of prime agricultural land, where Lock the Gate signs are more common.

But it's a far cry from the intensity of the issue in NSW, where some farmers in the Pilliga and at Bentley are using locks and chains to delay the march of the industry.

An disused gas well and separator station on private property near Roma. Photo: Hamish Broome / The Northern Star
An disused gas well and separator station on private property near Roma. Photo: Hamish Broome / The Northern Star


  • Total active wells: 5228 / 232
  • Production wells: 3913* / 144 *not all producing yet but ready to produce
  • Exploration/pilot wells: 1547 / 88
  • Fracked wells: 301 / 0
  • Water monitoring bores: 721 / 415
  • Land access agreements: 4801 / 285
  • Community contributions: $124 million / $1.1 million
  • Total contributions in last quarter 2013: $7 million / $120,000

Community contributions are not royalties: They include voluntary payments such as:

  • $3.6 million investment for the Chinchilla Family Support Centre.
  • $400k towards Chinchilla kindergarten.
  • $1.29 million for upgrade of the Miles water and sewage network.

Topics:  coal seam gas csg

Commercial fishers get extension, but it makes no difference

Ballina trawler harbour.

Deadline extended for NSW fishers buying back into the industry

Sex attacker slapped with strict supervision upon release

Violent sex offender's life after jail no walk in the park

Boogie woogie beauty took the world by storm

The grave of Winifred Atwell  at the Memorial gardens at South Gundurimba.

Photo Jacklyn Wagner / The Northern Star

International star who wanted to be buried on the Northern Rivers

Local Partners

David Attenborough on facing his mortality

Sir David Attenborough in a scene from the TV special The Death of the Oceans.

Life without Sir David Attenborough is hard to imagine

Goooodbye Hamish and Andy (from our radios)

Hamish and Andy

The pair have been on air since 2006

Saying "I do" changed Shia's outlook on marriage

Shia LaBeouf has a new outlook on marriage since he tied the knot.

Singer tunes in to first movie role

Tori Kelly voices the character Meena in the movie Sing.

Musician Tori Kelly voices Meena the teenage elephant in Sing

Cricketing greats bring Aussie mateship to commentary box

Cricket commentator Adam Gilchrist.

ADAM Gilchrist enjoys the fun of calling the Big Bash League.

The dead help solve the case

Debut novel delivers on wit, violence and shock

Chinese locked out of Australian property market

The rules are different if you're a foreigner

The buyer was from China - the trouble started right there

Morrison signs off on new affordable rental model

Australia's Treasurer Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference after a meeting of the Council of Federal Financial Relations at Parliament House in Canberra, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016.

Scott Morrison signed off on development of a new financing model

Coast high-flyer's fight back from bankruptcy, $72m debt

Scott Juniper went from millionaire developer to declaring bankruptcy in2012, now he is back on top of his game again with new developments including this one in Coolum.

'Apocalyptic lending storm' causes financial collapse.

How your home can earn you big $$$$ this Christmas

This luxury Twin Waters home rents out over Christmas for more than $6000 a week.

Home owners earning thousands renting out their homes this Christmas

2000 jobs at multi-million dollar Ipswich project

INSIDE: Artist's impressions of the interior of the new Eastern Heights aged care precinct.

Sub-contractors needed to build $15m aged care facility

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!