John Cotter claims it's city-dwellers, not farmers, who are most fiercely opposed to coal seam gas.
John Cotter claims it's city-dwellers, not farmers, who are most fiercely opposed to coal seam gas. Kevin Farmer

'City folk' getting in the way of Qld's CSG development

UNINFORMED city slickers are sticking in the craw of Queensland's booming coal seam gas industry, even as support was increasing from those directly affected in rural areas.

The claim was made by John Cotter, chair of the GasFields Commission Queensland, in Brisbane on Wednesday.

The Commission is an independent group created by the Queensland Government to act as an "honest broker" on negotiations between farmers, gas companies and councils.

New laws give the commission the power to compel information from private companies and the government itself to ensure all sides are doing the right thing.

Mr Cotter addressed the peak conference for the oil and gas industry - APPEA 2013 - on Wednesday, claiming gas companies were failing "the barbecue test".

He said the industry litmus test was how the conversation went when someone at a backyard barbecue started talking about the CSG industry.

How would it rate? Poorly, he said.

But in his regular dealings with much of south-west Queensland where gas wells are beginning to dot the landscape, Mr Cotter said it was the city-dwellers, not the farmers, who were most fiercely opposed.

"There's no doubt there's a vacuum out there for information, particularly for people who aren't directly affected," Mr Cotter said.

"I think those who are directly affected in those communities tend to find that information available.

"But if you looked at the greater portion of south-east Queensland residents, their understanding of (government) conditions and the environment these guys have to extract under - it would be very low."

Less than a week ago, a protest was held near the south-west Queensland township of Tara - an area where concerns over health impacts have been reported but no link to the gas industry established.

Groups against CSG are also growing on the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and Gold Coast.

"On the Sunshine Coast, I'd say it has nothing to do with them," Mr Cotter said.

"This is where the industry is failing badly - in ensuring the broader community understands.

"That (south-east Queensland) is totally dependent on this energy to start with and that it is produced in an environmentally and sustainable way."

It was for industry, he said, to take the lead on working with the community to tell its side.

"When there is a conversation around the barbecue and someone says, "This gas is terrible", someone else needs to say, "Hey that's not quite right".