Blue Energy is exploring for gas in the Wide Bay Burnett region, a region that features high-value horticulture and sugar cane crops and the World Heritagelisted Fraser Island.
The Region’s economy is a diverse mix of modern education and health services (30% of employment), tourism (10%), agriculture (7%), and manufacturing (6%).
Gas companies in Australia have a history of exaggerating the economic benefits of gas field development to local regions while ignoring any real economic and social costs.
Shale gas development in the Wide Bay Burnett region would produce a shortterm boom and bust cycle that would alter the Region’s industrial structure.
The short-term economic conflicts during a gas boom include outbidding for housing and workers, which cost other local businesses and can lead to the departure of long-term residents.
Analysis of previous Queensland gas development estimated that for every gas job 1.8 jobs in agriculture were lost. Surveys also show that the high rents in Miles, which tripled temporarily during the gas boom, forcing many locals to depart for the long-term.
The $1.2 billion agricultural economy of the region is dominated by sugar ($200m gross value), fruit and nuts ($400m), and vegetables ($210m), which are particularly prevalent in coastal areas subject to gas exploration permits.
Studies of other gas areas reveal that 155 coal seam gas wells on 11,500Ha of agricultural land reduced output by 7% on average, indicating the potential size of direct externalities on agriculture from gas development in the region.
Survey results in other gas boom towns show that after the boom and bust the gas industry is generally “tolerated” with only 6% of residents believing the gas industry changed the community for the better.
Any gas developed in the Maryborough Basin will be for export through the Gladstone port, and thus have no effect on local energy security or affordability.
Royalties to the state from gas have been be far less than forecast by officials and promised by the gas industry. In 2016, for example, royalties were only 6% of the forecast $561 million