By ALENA HIGGINS
A STATE government letter offering local landholders financial incentives to provide environmental offsets for proposed mining and gas projects has sparked alarm.
Goomburra Valley dairy farmer Gary Christensen received the letter on Tuesday and immediately forwarded it to president of the Southern Downs Protection Group, Sarah Moles.
The letter, titled ‘Environmental offsets – opportunity for additional information’, says “there are a number of mining and gas projects proposed for the Surat Basin in the Southern Brigalow Belt bioregion”.
It says sites are being sought to counteract lost habitat that can be managed by landholders to “provide these offsets in the same region that the impact is occurring” in the event the projects proceed.
Mr Christensen was told his property was identified through a desktop analysis as having possible environmental offset values and therefore presented him with an opportunity to gain an additional income stream for up to 20 years.
But the milk producer was not having a bar of it.
“I’m not interested,” he said.
“I’d rather go broke doing what I am doing then see them wreck the country.”
Mr Christensen said he wanted the community to be aware that mining companies were “sniffing around before it’s too late”.
The correspondence comes just months after he received a letter from APEC Coal advising him of its desire to begin negotiations for coal exploration drilling on his property.
Greens candidate Elizabeth Ure said the mining companies involved needed to come clean immediately and advise the community what they had planned for the region.
“I would advise farmers to be very careful before signing anything and to seek legal advice before doing so,” she said.
“The best advice though is to Lock the Gate and not talk to these people. Co-existence is non-existent.
“I would also suggest that residents of the Southern Downs think carefully when placing their vote next week. These mines are just the beginning.”
A Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) spokeswoman said 1216 letters were sent out to landholders in the Southern Brigalow Belt bioregion and the letter “is not in relation to a specific project”.
She would not speculate on the financial benefits, saying commercial agreement are between the landholder and proponent.
“The proposed projects are subject to full regulatory assessment process,” the spokeswoman said.
A department workshop will be held in Inglewood on 6 February.