Independent ombudsman appointed for Queensland CSG issues

Landholders talk with a Santos representative.

An independent ombudsman is to be appointed to work with Queensland landholders and gas companies on coal seam gas industry issues.

State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the new land access ombudsman was a central element of a revamp of the state’s Gasfields Commission and CSG dispute resolution system.

Former Queensland Farmers’ Federation boss Ruth Wade will head the new-look commission, which will have a new focus after three years of operation on the gasfields.

“Our multi-billion-dollar agriculture and LNG industries need to continue to co-exist in and around our regional communities,” Dr Lynham said.

“The new ombudsman will give landholders a trusted and independent decision-maker to resolve issues before they escalate into full blown legal disputes.

“As well, a more streamlined dispute resolution will be more cost-effective and efficient.”

New chair Ruth Wade has more than 25 years’ experience in agriculture and business.

She will be joined by Theodore cotton farmer Fleur Anderson, a passionate advocate for rural communities and small businesses.

Current commissioners Ian Hayllor and Rick Wilkinson were reappointed.

Dr Lynham thanked the Gasfields Commission’s outgoing chairman John Cotter and the commissioners who had worked hard to establish the Commission since its inception in 2013.

“Their efforts over the past three years have been instrumental in the growth of the onshore gas industry in very challenging circumstances,” he said.

The revamp follows an independent review of the Gasfields Commission Queensland by retired Land Court member Bob Scott, who interviewed more than 80 stakeholders including landholders, peak producer groups, industry, industry peak bodies, government agencies, local governments and community groups.

APPEA Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Roberts said the review confirmed the important role of the Commission in promoting win-win solutions for regional communities and Queensland’s growing natural gas industry.

Dr Roberts said that while the review’s recommendations would require assessment, Queensland was clearly leading the way in showing how agriculture and natural gas can prosper alongside each other, to everyone’s benefit.