FRACKING: Region would lose 18 jobs for every 10 created
THE Bundaberg region would lose 18 jobs in agriculture for every 10 jobs the gas industry creates, a new report has found.
The Australia Institute's most recent findings were released in an in-depth analysis late last week.
The new Gas and the Wide Bay Burnett Economy report stressed the negative impact the development of shale gas (fracking operations) in the Wide Bay Burnett region would have on local employment and production within the community's agricultural sector.
According to the analysis, shale gas development would produce a short-term boom and bust cycle at the expense of existing industries, which, in Bundaberg, predominatly focus on sugar, vegetables, fruit and nuts.
The report conceded gas development would compete with agriculture for employees, which would lead to the loss of 18 agriculture jobs for every 10 gas jobs created.
In light of the findings, Bundaberg cane grower and business owner Judy Plath brought up one of the region's closest neighbours - Gladstone.
"We don't want a boom/bust situation like Gladstone has experienced. Right now we have stable employment from agriculture, which is growing every year as our farming and value adding businesses grow," she said.
"Why would we risk existing jobs in our growing agricultural sector for promises from a gas company that's first concern is its own profits?"
Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Chair Allan Mahoney also strongly opposed the idea of fracking operations in Bundaberg, saying the risks outweighed any potential benefits.
"It's clear that shale gas and fracking is inconsistent with intensive agriculture in our region," he said.
"We can't afford to risk our clean and green brand and growing agricultural exports sector with a risky gas development agenda."
On top of the concerning findings related to employment, the report also claimed gas development had previously led to spikes in local rents, causing long-term residents to leave an area.
According to the report, studies of gas areas found that coal seam gas development had reduced agricultural output on farms by at least 7 per cent on average and that royalties to the state from gas had been far less than forecast.
Demonstrating this, the royalties in 2016 were only 6 per cent of the forecast $561 million, the analysis found.
Dr Cameron Murray from The Australia Institute said "the $1.2 billion agricultural economy of the Wide Bay Burnett region is dominated by sugar, fruit and nuts and vegetables, which are all prevalent in coastal areas subject to gas exploration permits".
"Our report ... highlights the real economic risks any large-scale gas development would have on existing agriculture, tourism and manufacturing industries.
"For every 10 jobs the gas industry says it will create, the Bundaberg region would lose 18 real jobs in agriculture. Local communities will experience negative impacts from boom and bust fracking operations and agricultural production will be affected.
"Gas companies like Blue Energy frequently make big promises to local communities but generally ignore the real social and economic costs of fracking."