Ray Hopper in bid to shut down almost 500 gas wells
A FIGHT led by Condamine member Ray Hopper to shut down almost 500 gas wells in south-west Queensland could, if successful, leave the Queensland Government open to an enormous legal bill and potentially a constitutional challenge.
The Katter's Australia Party member introduced the private member's bill to protect agricultural land from coal seam gas - it is currently being scrutinised by the parliamentary committee on agriculture, resources and environment.
On Wednesday, Mr Hopper was quizzed on the bill that would ban all gas and mining exploration east of the Condamine River from Chinchilla to the New South Wales border.Any key cropping land would also be covered.
He said it was time for action because it would be too costly to wind back the clock once development ramped up.
"Once they're established and find the gas that is there, the compensation will be too immense, the industry will explode in that area and there will be no farmers," he said.
"This must go into place and go into place immediately."
Although many gas companies already operate in the area, Arrow Energy's Surat Basin Gas project would be most affected by the bill.
Mr Hopper said gas expansions threatened the groundwater supplies of the Condamine Alluvium, which he wanted to keep in tact for "our children and our grandchildren".
But such a crackdown would still be incredibly costly to the government, according to the state bureaucrats.
Department of State Development executive director Dennis Bird said even at this embryonic stage for the gas industry, Mr Hopper's intentions would destroy 496 gas wells.
Given there was no history of a the government ever dumping a resources lease after approval, "it would certainly be subject of a legal challenge," Mr Bird said.
"The impact would do immeasurable damage to investment reputation and sovereign risk," he said.
"(Gas companies) could launch a constitutional challenge if it took away their rights when they have done nothing wrong.
"It would be quite costly to the state".
Fellow executive director Kylie Williams told the committee the government's own protocols meant key agricultural land would be protected.