Food security v energy security: land use conflict and the law

In NSW and Queensland contamination is more likely than in Western Australia, since the aquifers are very close to the coal seams being fracked. Therefore, it is necessary for the government regulating gas extraction to ensure that the well design and construction has multiple barriers to reduce the likelihood of such a contamination.

Contamination can also come from the produced water that is returned to the surface. A major challenge for governments is how this produced water, which contains fracking chemicals and compounds, is going to be treated and disposed of. It must be done in a manner that ensures it does not escape to enter surrounding water sources, such as streams, rivers and bores, thus contaminating water sources used for agriculture.

Call for an embargo

Finally, land access and conflict of land use is of major concern for farmers. This issue has been recognised by the Queensland government, which has declared a two-kilometre exclusion zone on mining activities near towns with more than 1000 people. Many farmers are calling for a similar embargo over prime agricultural areas.

Clearly there is a conflict in the use of the same area of land for agricultural purposes and the extraction of coal seam gas.

Farmers’ concerns about water use and aquifer contamination are real.

Governments are attempting to manage these important land management and technical issues. Coal seam gas development is going to forge ahead, especially since it is providing many important jobs in the declining Australian economy.

Dr Tina Hunter is assistant professor of law at Bond University, and a member of the Legal Culture Research Group and the Research Group for Natural Resources, Environment and Development Law at the University of Bergen, Norway. Read more about FAQ Research writers here.

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Categories: Qld

2 Responses

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  1. Coal seam gas has nothing to do with our energy security, it is all to do with the gold rush mentality of making a dollar as quickly as possible. It employs very very few, and even less when the LNG plants are up and running. With the environmental damage, especially to Gladstone Harbour now matching that of the effected farmlands it becomes very very difficult to see a net beneift to Australia from this industry. How long it will take the land and world heritage waterways to recover? Maybe never. This is a toxic industry that needs to be stopped dead in its tracks before more damage occurs, ask UNESCO when they come to Gladstone in two weeks time what they think!!

    by michael crook on Feb 22, 2012 at 9:23 pm

  2. What superficial city-centric nonsense. What “important” jobs? This emerging industry currently uses mainly a small number of unskilled and semi-skilled workers with little training on the job and only an even small number of on-site specialists. Ask the people who live and work in areas where CSG extraction is occurring. And what “declining” economy? The manufacturing sector may be in trouble but that is nothing new. It has been in trouble for more than two decades. However, there is no sign of a “declining” economy. Unemployment is at its lowest for decades and the population is more highly educated than in previous decades. Many of the new jobs in Australia are in export industries based around knowledge transfer not just around commodities and even more job growth can be found surprisingly in the Arts. As for coal seam gas being linked to energy security, the reality is the opposite. Its excessive use of vital resources like water and sand and the take-over of key areas of high quality arable farming and grazing land make it a high risk venture at best and a potential financial and environmental disaster at worst. The excessively rapid growth of the fledgling CSG industry in Australia is an unproven, high risk strategy by debt ridden and cash hungry governments. It is too big a gamble to be allowed to proceed without much better information and independent research. Do it!

    by on Feb 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm

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