Regional Interests Development Approval (RIDA) to face challenge from farmers

The concerns of four farming families have been submitted to the Queensland Palaszczuk Government – the situation facing these families is that 14 coal seam gas wells are proposed to go underneath their properties via the process of deviated drilling between Dalby and Wandoan. The main concern is that the Palasczuk government’s planning rules for protecting prime agricultural land and farmers have failed. A regional interests development approval (RIDA) is required when a resource or regulated activity is proposed to be in an area of regional interest.

Shay explains what is happening here:

The Palasczuk planning rules state that regions such as the Western Downs are agricultural areas that are important to the state and nation and that therefore have priority use of the land. The rules also state that the last permit coal seam gas companies have to acquire prior to entering agricultural land is a RIDA. This is because of the great risks that gas activities have for prime agricultural land, including changing the levels and efficiency of farming land, subsidence, groundwater or overland flow, quality of underground water and the potential for contamination of the unique flood plains of the Condamine river.

There are more than 10,000 exploration and operating coal seam gas wells in Queensland, with 22,000 wells planned by 2050. Some experts are saying that the industry is on track to drill 30,000 wells. Many of these wells will be on agricultural land. The legislation is written to give advantage to the gas industry. Very few RIDA’s have had to be acquired by the gas companies and none have been rejected or denied. The legislation enacted to protect priority agricultural areas is, so far, favouring the gas industry.

It is one of the few times out of a project of 7,500 gas wells planned by Arrow Energy (Shell and Petrochina), that Arrow Energy has been required to apply for a RIDA and therefore one of the only times the Palasczuk government’s approach of prioritising gas activity over protecting agricultural land has been able to be questioned.

These farmers were grateful for others in the district, including Agforce, who supported them and took this infrequent opportunity to provide their own submissions against the Arrow application.

One of the four farmers’ submission, a grain farmer whose core business is providing weed free seed and some specialty seed, is very important to other farmers in much of Qld and NSW. His submission against the Arrow application to place wells under his property demonstrated that the gas company had not properly considered how the impacts of their activities may cause delays to planting, increase in disease, impact on yield, added expense and difficulty for crop protection. Also, that the promises the gas company made in their application were untested and lacked clear pathways for the promises to be undertaken in reality. This all means that the intent of the Regional Planning Interests Act to manage and fix the extent and type of gas activities and their impact on priority agricultural areas is not being realised and that as a result of this submission, the farmers want the Palasczuk government to reject the Arrow Energy application and deny these gas activities that will significantly and irreversibly risk the unique farming area producing huge amounts of clean, green, clothes, loaves and rows of food and fodder for Queenslanders and export.

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