BRIEFING PAPER: Foot off the gas

Published 30 Nov 2020

BRIEFING PAPER: Foot off the gas

By Teresa Fox & Katie McRobert, AFI

How a gas-led recovery will impact Australian farmers

The Federal Government has announced that part of Australia’s strategy to deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19 will be a ‘gas-led recovery’. However, increasing gas production in Australia creates obstacles to the agriculture sector’s economic viability, social cohesion, environmental stewardship and ability to meet sustainability goals.

Recent AFI research on land use conflict has found that, beyond the direct competition for land and water assets, many farmers experience additional negative impacts from coal seam gas (CSG) activities including aquifer depletion, water contamination and severe personal stress. At a time when the Australian farming sector has committed to an aspirational economy-wide target of net carbon zero by 2050, concerns have also been expressed that accelerating gas production might undermine these goals.

AFI has produced this briefing paper asking what impact a gas-led recovery might have on the protection of productive agricultural land, the social capital of farming communities, and our long-term food and water security. The paper also provides maps of petroleum exploration licence (PEL) areas in Australia overlaid on the Great Artesian Basin and on the country’s primary agricultural activities, highlighting regions where these intersect.

The briefing paper concludes that while agricultural enterprises and gas mining can exist together, this co-existence comes at a compromise – particularly for agriculture. Despite efforts to mitigate these impacts via landholder compensation, offset arrangements and community support programs, gas production has the potential to significantly impede the agriculture sector.

The paper recommends that the Australian agricultural sector should advocate to limit those activities which could cause unknown damage and seek further research on the impacts of gas exploration to ensure future strategies are based on robust evidence.

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