The council of Toowoomba has decided to implement a temporary ban on coal seam gas projects.
The biggest governing body in the Darling Downs area of Queensland has requested that the state government temporarily halt the approval of any new coal seam gas initiatives, following concerns from local farmers about the potential for land sinking.
The motion to temporarily prohibit was unanimously approved by the Toowoomba regional council on Tuesday, following a discussion on a submission regarding proposed changes to the Regional Planning Interests Act by the state government.
Bill Cahill, the councillor who raised the motion, said the council had heard from a delegation of farmers at its October meeting who outlined the potential risks of coal seam gas extraction, including sinking soil and the contamination of underground aquifers, and that councillors had voted to “represent our community”.
Cahill stated that it involves pausing, evaluating our progress, and requesting the government to review certain scientific findings, frameworks, and laws.
Over the last 20 years, there have been over 9,000 natural gas wells constructed in the Toowoomba council area, with the majority located west of the region. A partnership between Shell and PetroChina, known as Arrow Energy, is now extending its operations into this local government area, which is known for its highly fertile farmland.
A different member of the council, Megan O’Hara Sullivan, expressed the council’s desire to convey a message to the Queensland government to cease approving further projects involving fossil fuels.
According to Sullivan, simply being polite and conventional is not sufficient. The severity of weather events such as droughts, floods, and fires has increased, highlighting the need for action. It is the responsibility of local government to advocate for change, as it may be the only effective course of action.
According to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in order to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, there should be no further development of oil or gas projects.
A representative from Arrow Energy stated that the company has allocated approximately $90 million in the past year and a half towards the Toowoomba region and is dedicated to addressing any concerns from the local council and landowners.
According to the spokesperson, our Surat Gas Project has many advantages for the Toowoomba community such as creating more jobs and boosting the economy.
Subscribe to receive the bi-weekly Rural Network email newsletter from Guardian Australia.
According to Ellie Smith, the Queensland coordinator for Lock the Gate, the council’s position may not have an immediate effect on approvals for coal seam gas, but it could potentially influence future decisions.
She stated that local councils in different regions have strongly advocated for their communities, resulting in significant influence on decision makers.
Toowoomba, along with five other councils in regional Queensland, expresses its opposition to the development of coal seam gas.
Arrow Energy decided not to move forward with their request to extend their exploration permits in the Scenic Rim region due to strong opposition from the local community.
The Environmental Defenders Office and Lock the Gate hosted a legal workshop on Wednesday to inform landowners in the Cecil Plains area, a top-priority agriculture zone on the outskirts of Toowoomba, about their rights in case Arrow Energy seeks access to their property.
Smith stated that as Arrow joins the Toowoomba regional council, they are aware that many landowners may resist.
“It is now up to the Palaszczuk government to decide whether they will heed the voices of the local community and council, or if they will persist with their plans.”
The government of Queensland has declared a “fresh gas opportunity” by providing $21m in grants to corporations to develop unexplored gas resources.
The Queensland Department of Resources stated that they have not yet officially received the proposal put forth by the Toowoomba Regional Council.
According to a spokesperson from the department, the state’s resources industry follows a coexistence system that considers the needs of both resource companies and landowners, addresses environmental concerns, and contributes to the economic growth of Queensland.
Subscribe to the Rural Network email newsletter.
Become a member of the Rural Network Facebook group to join the community.