Fracking permits put 40,000ha of prime cropping land at risk
MORE than 40,000ha of prime agricultural land in the Wide Bay Burnett could be under threat if a major gas giant's exploratory fracking permits are renewed.
The three licences, owned by Blue Energy, are each set to expire in December and then later next year in March, presenting a prime, once-in-a-decade opportunity for local anti-fracking authorities to rear their heads.
Lock the Gate Alliance's recent release of new mapping data revealed more than 40,000ha of strategic cropping land in the Wide Bay Burnett fell under the exploration licences the oil and gas company currently holds in the area.
The permits have sat over the region for nearly a decade.
Claiming the agricultural and gas industries could never operate side-by-side in the region, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association chair Allan Mahoney argued the mapping, which clearly exposed the significant overlap between prime cropping land and areas covered by Blue Energy's exploratory permits, proved there was no room in the region for fracking.
"This is high value irrigated land, and it cannot coexist with fracking," he said.
"We are not anti-mining and we are not anti-gas but these two industries cannot co-exist."
Blue Energy currently owns 100 per cent of the Maryborough Basin - an area of 24,600km2 containing Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Maryborough.
In the past, the oil and gas exploration giant has limited its exploration efforts to the Bowen Basin, however, its 2017 financial report flagged the Maryborough Basin as a "significantly under explored frontier".
Wide Bay Burnett regional co-ordinator for Lock the Gate Alliance, Vicki Perrin, said told the NewsMail the data released earlier this week spoke for itself, reinforcing the idea that now was the time to act.
"If Blue Energy has their licences renewed, if they come here with drill rigs in a more targeted search for gas, the process of fracking could be used on strategic cropping land (until the new permits expire in as long as 10 years)," she said.
"As long as there's a permit, there's a threat."
According to the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, the mapping increased pressure on the oil and gas company to relinquish its three Authorities to Prospect (licences), simultaneously acting as a tool to pressure the government to extinguish the permits once and for all.
"We want the State Government to cancel these two permits and for Blue Energy not to seek renewal of them when they expire," Mr Mahoney said.
"The permits cover two aquifers that supply the entire region and if anything were to happen to those aquifers it would be a disaster of epic proportions.
"The government must extinguish the petroleum licences so this region can never be put at risk like this again," Mr Mahoney said.
Fracking consists of drilling down into the earth before a mix of water, sand and chemicals is injected into rock at high pressure, forcing gas to flow out.
The mapping, produced by Lock the Gate Alliance, uses the current version of the SCL trigger map produced by the Queensland Government. The SCL map is derived from soil, land and climate information using data from the Agricultural Land Audit and the Queensland Land Use Mapping Program.