LandHolders Faqs

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What are the potential impacts of onshore gas industry operations on agricultural land?

Types of Impacts

The construction and installation of onshore gas industry infrastructure (e.g. gas wells, pipelines, access roads, laydown yards), by virtue of the project area footprint and the heavy machinery involved, may cause localised environmental disturbance, including soil degradation, contamination and the introduction of invasive species.

Protection of Agricultural Land

In Queensland, agricultural land is protected under environmental and regional planning legislation.

One of the purposes of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 is to manage the impacts of resource activities on areas of regional interest and to manage the coexistence of these resource activities and other regulated activities with highly productive agricultural activities. An area of regional interest defined under the Act is called a strategic cropping area. This is an area containing strategic cropping land that is highly suitable for cropping because of a combination of the land's soil, climate and landscape features.

A priority agricultural area is an area of regionally significant agricultural production that is identified in a regional plan.

The purpose of identifying priority agricultural areas and strategic cropping areas is to ensure that resource activities in these areas do not hinder agricultural operations. They must not result in a material impact on a priority agricultural land use. The assessment criteria in the Regional Planning Interests Regulation 2014 provide prescribed solutions for managing impact.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection may require financial assurance as a condition of an environmental authority. Considerations include the degree of risk of environmental harm being caused or that might reasonably be expected to be caused by the activity and the likelihood of action being required to rehabilitate or restore harm to the environment caused by the activity.

Soil Impacts

For a discussion of impacts on soil in the Surat and Bowen Basins, refer to Vacher et al (2014), Quantifying the impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) activities on the soil resource of agricultural lands in Queensland, Australia.

This paper examines the importance of quantifying the different impacts that CSG activities have on soils in order to better inform the development of gas industry guidelines to minimise impacts to the soil resource on joint CSG-agricultural lands.

The Gas Industry, Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) undertook a study of case study farms in the Surat Basin. The effects of coal seam gas infrastructure development on arable land. Project 5: Without a trace (Final report). The aim of this study was twofold:

  1. To assess the extent of damage to agricultural soil caused by the various elements of CSG development, and
  2. To estimate the likely impact of soil compaction, caused during the establishment of CSG infrastructure, on crop productivity.

Weed Management

Callinan, B. (2014) Agriculture, Big Business and the Gas Fields: Practical Tools for Weed Hygiene at the Mega-Scale refers to a range of measures to prevent weed spread. These measures include landholders' practices; legislation; and weed hygiene procedures adopted by the onshore gas industry.

Landholders can help prevent weed spread by regularly cleaning vehicles and equipment, ensuring weed hygiene declarations accompany seed stock and fodder, adopting quarantine procedures before introducing new livestock and maintaining pastures in good conditions. They can benchmark their weed status and establish risk management practices, ideally prior to any significant gas activity on their property.

The Land Access Code, made under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, imposes mandatory conditions concerning the conduct of authorised activities, including petroleum authorities, on private land. One of the mandatory conditions (section 15) is to prevent the spread of a declared pest while carrying out authorized activities. A declared pest is defined under the Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002 and can also be an animal or plant declared under a local law to be a pest.

Callinan (2014) discusses weed prevention strategies developed by the onshore gas industry as part of standard operating procedures. These strategies help to find collaborative weed management solutions with other industry partners and to guide biosecurity management planning, hygiene management planning and practices and land access agreement negotiations.