The protection of priority agricultural land is critical if we are to maintain sustainable food, fibre and foliage production for future generations. As growth in mining and gas, urban development, renewable energy, and environmental projects continues, land use competition is placing agricultural production under pressure and many landholders find themselves in a ‘David and Goliath’ situation to protect their land asset and production capability.
Coal seam gas (CSG) development across the Condamine floodplain falls within Priority Agricultural Area (PAA) land and is causing concern for a number of landholders due to potential future subsidence risks that could impact individual farms and the regional landscape more broadly. This particular area of land is high value, intensively farmed priority agricultural land which is made up of rich alluvial clay soils and is rightly regarded as some of the most productive agricultural land in Queensland.
Many landholders are concerned that CSG-induced subsidence may have damaging and negative future impacts on farming practices, productive capacity, and land values. This will likely incur high costs of remediation, placing additional short- and long-term pressures on landholders, and their farming enterprises.
It is important that farming enterprises are protected by a framework that provides a clear pathway for impact assessment, determination and dispute resolution for all landholders who may become materially impacted by CSG-induced subsidence. The existing framework is fragmented, confusing and does not adequately protect the landholder from future risks.
The Queensland Government recently announced their support for most of the recommendations made by the GasFields Commission Queensland’s review into CSG-induced subsidence to strengthen landholder protections.
QFF calls on the government to prioritise actioning these important recommendations as a matter of urgency. Stronger landholder protections must include decision making that is based on scientific evidence and the driving principle of avoiding impact. It is critical that landholders have an equal seat at the table during negotiations if coexistence is to be achieved across communities and in the interests of all stakeholders.
As competition for land use continues to grow across the state, it is imperative that we work together with a long-term view within an evidence-based decision-making framework, while acknowledging that not all impacts can be compensated for. An effective and transparent risk assessment process cannot rely on the self-assessment of a developer and must provide for a ‘no go’ decision should the risk to priority agricultural land be deemed too great.
QFF will continue to work on behalf of our members to advocate for the necessary reforms required to protect valuable agricultural land. We are fortunate in Queensland to be able to access and enjoy the world’s best food, fibre and foliage, but let’s not fall into the ‘full belly syndrome’ trap. We must ensure Queensland agriculture has an equal voice when it comes to coexistence negotiations and appropriate frameworks are in place to ensure valuable agricultural land is protected for future generations.