Local lawyer weighs up CSG class action against Qld miners
A NORTHERN Rivers lawyer is considering a class action against CSG companies in the Darling Downs region of Queensland on behalf of landowners who feel they have been adversely impacted by the industry.
Mullumbimby solicitor Cameron Bell said he was in discussions with several residents of the region over their grievances.
"We would be looking at 15 to 20, in terms of people who would be interested in joining us," Mr Bell said.
"The people I've spoken to just don't seem to be happy with the way (land access) negotiations with the companies have proceeded until now.
"I have had the opportunity to look at proposed agreements put forward to these affected landowners, and they're not good agreements."
"They're totally inadequate, and none of these agreements would necessarily stand up (in court), they're based on misinformation and lack of transparency."
"They're just about protecting the company.
"People are getting peeved off about that and they're actually wanting something done."
Last week Mr Bell successfully represented Tara resident John Jenkyn (pictured) in Chinchilla Local Court over a charge of using a carriage service (Facebook) to menace, which was struck out by the court after Mr Bell showed the allegations were without substance.
On November 9 last year Mr Jenkyn had posted a "rant" on a public Facebook page which became the subject of a complaint to police by gas company QGC.
Mr Bell said this was a case of QGC "effectively trying to criminalise someone they're not getting along with".
"My client vented his frustration on Facebook, and the next thing the police are being phoned by staff at QGC saying 'we're being threatened'."
He said the courtroom win was a "significant moral victory".
During his work on the case, Mr Bell said he had heard from several others who were upset with the industry.
Mr Bell said he was now talking with a Brisbane lawyer experienced in class actions.
If a case went ahead it might well implicate the Queensland Government because mandatory baseline testing was "overlooked" and authority given for operations to proceed, Mr Bell said.
Companies had since become adept at denying any wrongdoing, which was made easier by the fact no baseline data was available.
Mr Bell said while people had mobilised successfully on the Northern Rivers against CSG, the Darling Downs was a "different story" which "strikes you on another level".
He said the case would need funding to collect the expert evidence needed to ground a successful action.