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Co-existence is not an impossible goal

Macalister farmer, agricultural consultant and chair of the Basin Sustainability Alliance David Hamilton believes co-existence between agriculture and mining is possible - it just takes work.
Macalister farmer, agricultural consultant and chair of the Basin Sustainability Alliance David Hamilton believes co-existence between agriculture and mining is possible - it just takes work. Contributed

THE first step to co-existence for mining and agriculture is establishing a respectful relationship between the two parties.

That's the opinion of Macalister farmer and agricultural consultant David Hamilton, who has more than 10 years in senior roles with the Department of Primary Industries, and now volunteers as chair of the Basin Sustainability Alliance.

Mr Hamilton on Wednesday told the Dalby Chamber of Commerce meeting that co-existence was possible, but it would take work.

"Co-existence cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Every land use is different and every farming enterprise is unique," he said.

"CSG development must not endanger the long-term productivity of the land and there must not be detrimental impact on water supplies for agriculture or domestic use."

Mr Hamilton views the key to harmonious relationships as being understanding and respectful.

"They need to be willing - both parties - to enter into a business arrangement that fully addresses all the impacts on the agricultural enterprise."

He said he'd like to see other companies follow Santos's lead in relation to its commitment not to undertake development within a landholder's operation unless the landholder wanted it.

"Unfortunately, our law is still structured so that landholders do not have the right to say no to CSG development.

"BSA's number one principle is that resource activity does not proceed unless the landholder agrees.

"There's certainly been progress in the relationships.

"However, there are still many landholders who are forced by law to reach agreement. We need to correct this power imbalance and work together to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture."

Mr Hamilton said he was optimistic about the future of farming and the advances in technology that have helped improve efficiencies.

"Over the past 20 to 30 years, the cotton industry has boosted productivity about three per cent a year, and so has the sorghum industry," he said.

He said genetic improvements in cotton varieties assisted with the productivity increases in both cotton and sorghum, but conceded the advancements were made tougher during drought times.