It seems likely that one of the most severe legacies of the CSG industry in Queensland will be the spread of weeds. More and more we are assisting clients that have weed problems as a result of CSG on their property. Some time ago, we assisted a landholder negotiating a Conduct and Compensation Agreement (CCA) for exploratory activities. The company bitterly resisted the landholder’s requirements to protect himself against the threat of weeds being spread, dismissing these concerns as “lawyer beat-up”.
While the industry itself has come to acknowledge the importance of this issue, it still remains largely the subject of window dressing.
We are informed by a leading expert that current washdown procedures have difficulty removing more that 10% of the weed or pathogen load from machinery. If correct, no amount of insistence upon constant monitoring of access and the production of weed hygiene declarations (washdown certificates) will truly protect a landholder. Furthermore, having companies or subcontractors able to self-monitor and write the certificates themselves is hardly of comfort. We have had many occasions where landholders have caught companies in breach of the Land Access Code requirements.
Government needs to elevate this issue with urgency. It needs to consult with appropriate independent experts to address the problem and carefully review the existing washdown procedures.
There are many aspects of this industry that have the potential to undermine the economic benefits expected to flow from it – underground water impacts, salt problems, the lack of appropriate environmental bonding, and many others that get attention. Weeds insidiously sit in the background. They may well be as big a legacy issue as any and now is the time to be doing something about it, given that some weeds may not appear for decades.
Written by Peter Shannon
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: November 24, 2013.