from ABC and Cairns News

Coal seam gas company QGC has lodged an application with the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines which could see the Strategic Cropping Land status of some land deeds in the Wandoan region removed.

Strategic Cropping Land is land that has the soil quality, topography and rainfall that allows more than one quality crop to be grown on a commercial agricultural basis.


Photo: Coal seam gas wells in an area south of Chinchilla in southern Qld, near the Tara residential estate, taken in 2010, show the general region when some landholders have sold to QGC

The State Government has mapped areas that could potentially be Strategic Cropping Land but asks landholdesr to then validate that status.

A coal seam gas company can also submit a validation application that the land is not Strategic Cropping Land.

Queensland Gas Corporation is attempting to bulldoze over the rights of Wandoan farmers many of whom hold Freehold title, which under the State’s land tenure system offers no protection to voracious gas companies.

The Wandoan district(400 klm NW Toowoomba) has for decades produced some of the best prime hard wheat in the country and its brigalow, bottle tree, vine scrub soils are naturally rich in humus and nitrogen.

Abattoirs will attest to the high standard of fat bullocks consigned from the Wandoan area over many decades.

About 175 landholders around Wandoan are involved in the application.

Roma lawyer Tom Marland says it is an involved process to justify Strategic Cropping Land status.

Audio: Roma lawyer Tom Marland explains the validation application process for Strategic Cropping Land (ABC Rural)

“They’ve got to go out, take field measurements which are fairly intensive. [They] look at 10 hectare lots and look at slope measurements and also probably seek agronomy advice in relation to the measurements and the technical parametres to meet the criteria,” he said.

Mr Marland says it will be difficult for some landholders to meet the requirements within the timeframe.

Chairman of the Basin Sustainability Alliance David Hamilton agrees, saying landholders are concerned about the short time frame they have to justify their Strategic Cropping Land designation.

“They’ve got a very short period of time to object to the application and to do the job properly, they need expert advice,” Mr Hamilton said.

“What QGC is doing is legally quite sound but I think what the community would expect is that they abide by the intent of the legislation which is to give landholders more say on how a gas company might operate on their property.”

A spokesperson for QGC says land that is the subject of their application is regarded as potential strategic cropping land only, that is, it has not been decided whether it is or is not strategic cropping land.

The law says that land that is unsuitable for cropping, or which has not routinely been cropped, is not strategic cropping land and that is why the company has lodged the application.

The company says it is following the process and timeframes set by Government and QGC has written to every affected landholder, and placed ads in local newspapers, to let them know what we are doing and why and that QGC remains committed to negotiating with landholders fully and properly before undertaking any work on their land.

For the State government to allow the invasion of coal seam gas companies into this quality country is a tragedy of the highest proportion.