FORMER Queensland Farmers Federation interim chief executive officer Ruth Wade has been appointed as an independent ombudsman to work with Queensland landholders and gas companies on coal seam gas industry issues.
State Development Minister Anthony Lynham said the new land access ombudsman was a central element of a revamp of the state’s Gasfields Commission and CSG dispute resolution system.
Dr Lynham said the new-look commission would have a new focus after three years of operation.
“Our multi-billion-dollar agriculture and LNG industries need to continue to co-exist in and around our regional communities,” Dr Lynham said.
“The new ombudsman will give landholders a trusted and independent decision maker to resolve issues before they escalate into full blown legal disputes.
“As well, a more streamlined dispute resolution will be more cost-effective and efficient.
“Government will work with stakeholders, including the recently appointed president of the Land Court, to finalise legislative and regulatory changes to make this happen.
“Our other reforms to the Gasfields Commission will allow it to continue the work of building sustainable coexistence, but with what is now an ongoing and mature industry.”
Ms Wade has more than 25 years’ experience in agriculture and business. She will be joined by Theodore cotton farmer Fleur Anderson, a passionate advocate for rural communities and small businesses. Current commissioners Ian Hayllor and Rick Wilkinson were reappointed.
Dr Lynham thanked the Gasfields Commission’s outgoing chairman John Cotter and the commissioners who had worked to establish the Commission since its inception in 2013.
“Their efforts over the past three years have been instrumental in the growth of the onshore gas industry in very challenging circumstances,” he said.
“Local workers are benefiting from the jobs, local businesses from the direct investment by the companies, and the royalty stream will support the state’s schools, hospitals and essential services for decades to come.”
The revamp follows an independent review by retired Land Court member Bob Scott, who interviewed more than 80 stakeholders including landholders, peak producer groups, industry, industry peak bodies, government agencies, local governments and community groups.
Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said the previous Gasfields Commission failed to live up to its intended mandate to act as proactive facilitator at the interface between landholders and the coal seam gas industry.
“QFF commends the government for making the changes required to refocus the commission, enabling it to better deliver upon community and industry expectations,” Mr Armitage said.
“Having worked professionally with Ruth in her previous role as interim QFF CEO, I am confident she will competently lead the commission in a balanced way to ensure it works more effectively to realise the new charter.
“QFF also welcomes the reappointment of current commissioners Ian Hayllor and Rick Wilkinson, and the new appointment of Theodore cotton farmer Fleur Anderson.”
Mr Armitage said QFF thanked outgoing Gasfields Commission chairman John Cotter and the other commissioners for their hard work establishing the commission during a contentious time for many farmers with the newly emerging coal seam gas industry.
However, he said the new land access ombudsman would give landholders a trusted and independent decision maker to resolve issues before they escalate into often time consuming and costly legal disputes.
“QFF looks forward to working further with the government to finalise the details as to how the ombudsman will work in practice and the resourcing required to ensure it is effective,” he said.
“QFF will continue to work on behalf of its members to hold the commission to account on its renewed charter and it acting independently to deliver positive outcomes for industry and the community.”