A LEADING farmers’ rights advocacy group has cautioned local landholders against being seduced by the promise of vast riches through coal-seam gas exploration.
Lock the Gate Alliance issued the warning in light of recent endorsements from some Queensland farmers about the merits of signing access agreements.
Roma farmer and high-profile CSG supporter Peter Thompson is one who has negotiated a lucrative deal with Origin Energy worth a reported $245,000 a year.
Under the agreement, Origin has drilled about 40 gas wells on the 7500ha property on which he farms cattle and grain.
In a recent interview, Mr Thompson described CSG as providing farmers with an “opportunity to rejuvenate agriculture”.
He said that farmers had the choice to either work with energy companies, or they could put their “head in the sand and wish it would go away”.
But the alliance’s president, Drew Hutton, said many more farmers were living with disastrous environmental impacts and receiving very little compensation in return.
“Peter Thompson is a wealthy man who can hire big law firms to protect his interests, while most landowners can hardly even afford a lawyer,” he said.
“This man coming in and saying these things just because he’s got a good deal makes me feel angry for those farmers who have been fighting against these companies.”
The coal-seam gas debate is one that Liverpool Plains property owners are grappling with after the granting of exploration licences to companies such as Santos.
Mr Hutton said that despite Mr Thompson’s endorsement, most farmers who signed over access would never see anything like that sort of money.
“Most landowners get no more than $3000 per well and have to put up with numerous interruptions from CSG companies every day to their business,” he said. “You have to put up with huge numbers of people coming on to your property every day and these people going into areas they probably shouldn’t be.
“Organic farmers have the even greater worry about losing their organic certification if there is any sort of pollution incident.
“Then you’ve got the risk to the groundwater and in the end it all adds up to an awfully big pain in the neck to have to deal with them and you get nowhere near the money that it’s worth.”