Qld govt urged to act on farmers' concerns

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Qld govt urged to act on farmers' concerns

Queensland's gas regulator has called on the state government to “urgently act” amid farmers' concerns about a $10 billion resources project west of Brisbane.

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GasFields Commission Queensland has urged the state government to finalise an ongoing probe into Arrow Energy's Surat Gas Project to ease tensions with Western Downs landholders.

Arrow Energy have been approved to drill up to 2500 coal seam gas wells over 8600 square kilometres as part of the 27-year project which launched in April 2021.

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However, a state government probe was launched after farmers complained that Arrow Energy drilled beneath their properties near Dalby without their knowledge.

It has sparked allegations by landholders that Arrow Energy is wrongly claiming exemptions from laws that protect farms from resource development.

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“That is why we are now calling on the government to finalise their investigations into compliance issues as a matter of urgency,” commission CEO Warwick Squire said.

“This will provide much-needed community assurance that the state's regulatory framework requirements are being enforced.”

The commission wants the state government to detail their compliance expectations and how resource companies are meeting requirements particularly exemption criteria under the 2014 Regional Planning Interests Act (RPIA).

The commission also took aim at Arrow Energy, saying its “Commitments to Surat Basin Landholders” document of August 2021 was a positive step but demanded more to “improve their relations with regional communities”.

“Our oversight function has now led us to a crucial juncture where we are publicly calling on both government and industry to deliver marked improvements and reforms, thus allowing the sustainable coexistence between landholders, regional communities and Queensland's onshore gas industry to advance,” the commission said.

The Queensland government said there would be an exemption review after confirming ongoing investigations into Arrow Energy following allegations from two landholders.

Farmers are concerned the project will cause their land to subside or sink following claims of “directional drilling” under properties without the owner's knowledge.

“As a government we take any landholder concerns seriously,” a state government spokesperson told AAP.

“For directional drilling under a person's property where there is no infrastructure or activity occurring on the surface, we expect landholders to receive a formal notice of entry.

“Arrow Energy has been required to provide more information to the department surrounding their petroleum leases and their Environmental Authority.

“Given the complex technical nature of gas projects a review will be made into the applicability of any exemptions after receiving the requested information by Arrow Energy.”

The state government said it had accepted recommendations from the commission's RPIA review last October that highlighted a lack of transparency and clarity around statutory obligations.

But Dalby farmer Zena Ronnfeldt accused the state government of “fobbing off” landholders.

“It's a positive step the … (commission) has come out publicly and effectively demanded the government … finalise its investigations so landholders … know what's going on,” she told Lock the Gate Alliance.

“But the Palaszczuk government is fobbing off landholders with side-tracked assurances that will take years to put in place in response to RPIA recommendations, while Arrow is committing unlawful actions right now.

“We need an urgent independent investigation.”

Queensland's rural producer peak body AgForce on Tuesday said more must be done to better protect farmers in negotiations with resource companies seeking access to their land.

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