Thursday, 31 October 2013

The case of Peter Swift will shock you

By Simon Breheny
Cross post under IPA copyright

peter-swiftPeter Swift is a Western Australian farmer who takes good care of his land and describes himself as a conservationist. He even spent his own money fencing off a large area of his land and planting vegetation to support an endangered species of cockatoo.

But for the past three years, Peter has been hauled through the courts by the WA Department of Environment and Conservation (now the Department of Environment Regulation) over claims that he cleared native vegetation from his land. Peter has always maintained his innocence and even provided aerial photographs showing that any land clearing had taken place before he purchased the property.

And last week he finally won. But his victory is soured by the fact that he now finds himself $360,000 out of pocket – not to mention physically and mentally exhausted.

Peter’s case highlights the damage that native vegetation legislation inflicts on farmers. Instead of respecting property rights and putting a regime in place that achieves positive environmental outcomes, native vegetation laws punish rural landholders and fail to achieve conservation gains.
It also demonstrates how uncompromising environment department bureaucrats have become in the pursuit of justice scalps. Malice is the only way to describe how Peter has been pursued by the department. And that’s why I’ve called for an inquiry into the handling of native vegetation cases by the department. The evidence of Peter’s innocence is clear and should have seen this case dropped years ago. But bureaucrats with a prosecution-at-all-costs agenda sought to bully a vulnerable farmer into submission.

Peter was right to stand up to thugs in the department and the result achieved in court is a good one. But these laws are still on the books despite their deep flaws and as long as they remain the threat to the livelihoods of farmers across the state looms as a very real possibility.

The Western Australian government must repeal its native vegetation laws to put an end to the injustice that this regime creates and to restore property rights to rural and regional landowners.

UPDATE: Peter Swift has launched a campaign to defend rural property rights here.
First published at IPA Freedom watch

Monday, 28 October 2013

Forgive our discontent

By Veronica Laffy

 I write in response to the Weekend Australia front page story, Good times flow from well of discontent, on the wonderful relationship and excellent compensation enjoyed by Peter Thompson with Origin Energy in Roma.

As a landholder involved in ongoing negotiations for access with QGC, I can assure you that the deal struck by Peter is one that is rare and certainly not on offer to most landholders.

Photo: Laffy family on break from the farm
$3000 per well is certainly no supplement to our existing income, and doesn't even come close to covering our time investment in monitoring company activities on our land, were it to eventuate.  The company refuses to pay for landholder time involved in negotiating access - landholders are in fact the only party involved in the process who aren't remunerated for their time.   Land access agents, government officers, solicitors, experts, valuers -all are paid in this process.   Would you work for free to facilitate the access of your backyard for hundreds of strangers over an unspecified time frame?  Landholders are being forced into business agreements spanning decades, we have limited knowledge of the real life impacts, although given the numbers of people on Peter Thompson's property amenity and lifestyle impacts alone seem quite substantial.  That's before we even talk about wholesale removal of water and the millions of tonnes of salt THAT THEY STILL DONT HAVE AN EFFECTIVE USE FOR.  It is looking increasingly as though salt will be buried in landfill.  That's MILLIONS OF TONNES.  We have the most to lose and the least to gain, is it any wonder we are concerned?

We run an organic livestock enterprise modelled on the likes of Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm.  We have spent the past five years achieving organic certification and getting our property to a place where we can start to implement some of his practices.  Our business model will not coexist with the rollout of wells, roads, chemicals, daily traffic, and methane venting and flaring.  The impacts are too great - we would need to employ 2 full time staff just to monitor the traffic and ensure bio security alone.  We have 6 children, one of whom has Down Syndrome - the impact on our ability to have a safe haven for him and our other children here on our farm is enormous.  We would no longer know who was here, when they were here, if they were "safe".  Living in a rural or remote area has difficulties, but one of the great advantages is knowing who is and isn't on your property, this would be gone for the rest of my children's childhood.

We are being constantly threatened with land court.  We have neighbours in the same position who could handle the stress no more and signed agreements for laughable sums because the cost and stress of a possible court battle was too great.  They now live on an industrialised farm with constant traffic, random access, broken company agreements and no review for 15 years.  There is no company operating that will agree to a one year review.  They will just threaten court if you don't agree to their terms.  Intimidation and dictatorship 101 is the norm, particularly with QGC.

So forgive us for seeming to appear discontent.  We are not "left wing greenie activists”.  We are no one and everyone.  We are the common average Australian; having a go; taking a risk.  We are an average family "negotiating" against the might of a multinational corporation and a State government.  People like Peter Thompson are promoting something that is not the norm in this CSG rollout, but rather the rare.
Previously published related articles

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


Hordes of people are getting disillusioned with the bias on the ABC - so much so that a Facebook page has been started entitled 'Get our ABC Back'

^^^^^^^  Link to the site.

As long as you have your own page locked down so that only yourself (or your friends if you wish) can see your page, it is rather safe as far as I know.  If really concerned, only register and make it so that you are the only one who can see anything other than your name.

I have learnt that it is a very efficient way to get messages to people or organisations.   Through a group which is a closed group, to which I belong, we were asked to go to the Galileo page to "like it" and invite friends as well to draw their attention to the Galileo Movement - when I went to the GM page on Tuesday evening, there were three hundred odd 'likes' and yesterday when I looked, there were over six thousand people who had been made aware of it.   

Anyway back to the ABC bias. 

John Leal was responsible for this being placed on the Get our ABC Back page and furthermore  onto Facebook.

These fires are not new - however, some were lit by fire bugs this time also (Adam Bandt should take note).

The ABC has seized on the NSW bushfires to push its global warming alarmism - and never mind the facts. The cause-pushing is brazen and disgracefully misleading.
On Lateline last night, for instance, host Emma Alberici made the same false claim repeated this morning by Fran Kelly:
EMMA ALBERICI: Now, the former Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg says the fire in the Blue Mountains isn’t the worst we’ve seen, but it’s certainly the first time bushfires of this magnitude have happened in October. Why has the season started so early this year?
First time? ABC News Watch checks the files of the Sydney Morning Herald for news of earlier October fires around New South Wales. Here are just some examples:


From Sydney Morning Herald 24 October 1951, Page 1 headlines:

FIRES BLAZE IN BIG AREA Buildings Lost On N. Coast Firefighters battled yesterday with more than 100 bushfires near Sydney and in the country. Some fires were still burning fiercely last night.
STATE FORESTS Fires were burning in nine State forests yesterday.
Scores of firemen and civilians fought three bushfires in southern suburbs of Sydney nearly all day yesterday and prevented serious damage to many homes that were menaced. Firemen said last night the fires, fanned by a strong, gusty wind, were the worst since last summer. Some firemen collapsed from the effects of heat and smoke…
From Sydney Morning Herald 25 October 1951, Page 1 headlines:
Bushfires Devastate 64 State Forests
Sixty-four State forests on the North Coast were devastated yesterday by bushfires which firefighters described as ”the worst in history.” Thousands of acres of grassland in the north-east corner of the State was also burned out…
From Sydney Morning Herald 13 October 1948 Page 1
FIGHT FOR HOMES Bushfires At Mt Colah.

Read more at:


Here is another site with records of bushfires as well.
(I think some may have been missed on this site according to the above even but a good reference anyway)


Arrow through cockatoo’s tin hut

One important life lesson is that when you repeatedly don’t compete a task properly one day the consequences will come back to bite you on the butt. It may take many years but the agents of time, decay, cumulative impacts and the introduction of previously unknown factors makes a habit of doing a shoddy job a high probability to be a big problem in the future.
Career water driller Ian Hansen has been warning for many years of the problem in the waiting with Open mineral exploration holes. Ian first made this call long before what was that previously unknown factor, the coal seam gas industry, became known and just how wide spread it will be. Basin Sustainability Alliance (BSA) committee members received a call for help in an area north of Miles and what was found gives a good case study of the potential problem when you overlay extensive coal exploration drilling with the emerging coal seam gas industry. This is the case of Cockatoo Coal Tin Hut area and the Arrow CSG tenement that now contains the Kedron and Castledean pilot gas fields.

On the 12th September, the day following the launch of CSG Net, a community-based stock bore motoring initiative, south of Wallumbilla, BSA facilitated the visit of Ian Heiner who heads the CSG Compliance Unit and David Free, chief hydrogeologist with the CSG Compliance Unit's groundwater investigation and assessment team (GIAT) to a meeting with a group of concern landowners north of Miles who gathered at the house of Bruce and Pat Hooper.
 Cockatoo in a couple of series drilled a 250 metre grid paten in the aim to apply for a mining lease. Following the wet season in 2011 Bruce and Pat Hooper found many sink holes at the drill sites on their property. The original rehabilitation conducted on the Hooper’s property was of a standard observed widespread by different exploration companies in various locations. The PVC which is used as a casing in the upper soil profiles only is broken off most often by a bobcat that digs down a bit and snaps it off, after which the site is levelled. 

Image sourced [here]

Cockatoo did respond to the complaints and revisiting the drill sites on the Hooper’s property to conduct further work. Upon completion Cockatoo supplied documentation including a series of photos to show how they were going beyond the legislative requirements to keep the Hooper’s happy. It is rather telling when “world’s best practice” is to cut off the PVC pipe and empty 2 small bags of the pre-mix cement + sand and then fill dirt over it without having added water to the pre-mix cement powder. The Cockatoo document states 87 drill sites were identified on the property of which 16 were not able to be found and 4 more were treated differently because of Arrows Energy were now conducting activity on the property, 2 of  the drill holes were in Arrow’s dam area.

Now keep in mind that these drill holes had GPS readings taken and the last series of drilling was only one year prior. What about the many other holes drilled before GPS became available? David Free of GIAT told the gathering that there are 30,000 uncapped exploration holes in the Surat Basin and 100,000 in the Bowen Basin. David also made the statement that, “Whenever you have an open hole unsealed from top to bottom, you are providing a pathway”.  BSA believes that this is a very important issue; just what happens when you overlay the mineral exploration activity with a CSG field where the coal measures are depressurised to allow the gas to freely travel. The soil over the top even settled with time will not stop methane. The casing only goes down a few lengths. It allows for the intermingling of any aquifer or small stream above the coal measures.

Arrow has the petroleum tenement over the same area as the Cockatoo coal tin hut area. Already Arrow has two pilot coal seam gas fields; Kedron on the Hooper’s property and Castledean which is just south of the tin hut area.

Responding to BSA concerns in an article published at Beef Central, Abandoned exploration holes must be plugged, the office of the minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Andrew Cripps made the follow statements:
“The drilling of both CSG wells and coal exploration holes has been strictly regulated since the January 1 2005 under both the Petroleum and Gas Act and the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act. “There are also provisions contained in the Environmental Protection Act relating to the proper remediation of coal exploration holes.
“Under this legislation, companies are required to properly remediate disused P&G and coal exploration holes in line with established “plugging and abandonment” criteria, to ensure there is no interconnection between aquifers.” 

Amongst the other concerned landowners who came to talk to the CSG Compliance Unit included some whom Cockatoo did not do any rehabilitation on the holes at all. When the drill rig pulled out in July 2010 to when these photos were taken in September 2013 nothing had been done. Cockatoo owns two futher properties in the area and the locals doubt if rehabilitation was conducted on these properties. In the three plus years the wattle has grown back higher than your head and there is a high fuel load of grass thanks to the good summers in 2010 and 2011. Left alone Arrow could develop its full blown gas field with a well 50 metres away or even closer and not be aware of the open exploration holes. The scenario would far too easily develop where this new gas field would depressurise the coal measures making the gas free to move and on the surface a high fuel load experience what is normal in Australian landscapes - fire.
Another life lesson is that if you deny or ignore a problem, it won’t go away 

Previous related article - CSG: Open mineral exploration holes

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

GetUp Organisation and Climate Change.

This was sent to me this afternoon.  I think you should know about this.

(friend's name),

Is climate change making bushfires worse?

Yes. ABC's headline today: "Scientists say climate change link to bushfires demands action".

As we think of the hundreds of families losing homes in these fires, and the heroic fire fighters giving their all, we know that our climate will only get more dangerous unless we take strong action now.

We have a plan – I recorded this short video to give you the details:

Former Rural Fire Services Commissioner, Phil Koperberg, spells it out: "This is a feature of slowly evolving climate. We have always had fires, but not of this nature, and not at this time of year, and not accompanied by the record-breaking heat we've had".[1]

The science and the impacts are clearer than ever, but many of our political leaders are stepping back. We won't make progress by waiting for them. I can't see a path to climate action that doesn't involve a huge, strong movement of Australians standing up. Let's start a summer of action with these huge rallies.

Can you help?

for the GetUp team

[1] We need to talk about bushfires and climate change – if not now, when?, The Guardian, 21 October 2013

PS. Stay turned over the coming days for information about how you can be involved in our huge climate action mobilisations or host your own.

---Original email---

Dear Euan,

We have a bold plan to kick off a huge climate campaign – but we need your help.

The last month was the hottest on record.
The last 12 months were the hottest on record.
The last summer was the hottest on record, breaking 120 extreme weather events.

This month? Summer seems to have come early and bushfires are already burning.

Meanwhile, Tony Abbott has just released his legislation to scrap the carbon price – but there's no sight of a solid plan that would replace it or even meet our current targets to reduce emissions.

Politically, things might be a bit grim. But this is no time to give up on fighting for a safe climate – it's time to step up. We have bold, exciting and massive things planned. Watch the video to find out how you can get involved:

We're holding huge climate mobilisations across the country on 17 November. It's an ambitious plan, and we can't sign up for it without your support. Are you in?

Erin, for the GetUp team.

Monday, 7 October 2013

CSG: Open mineral exploration holes

By Ian Hansen

If the water is removed from the coal seams as planned over such a vast area of Queensland we are going to see uncontrollable volumes of gas leak from open mineral exploration test holes and we will also witness the depletion of many of our aquifers via these holes. This will be without a doubt the greatest environmental disaster ever on inland Queensland.

There are countless thousands of these holes left open and not sealed across the state.  There is no requirement for the mineral industry to record the location or any other information about these test holes to any authority so their whereabouts, depth and formations drilled through is mostly unknown making it impossible to predict the interconnection between the aquifers by any hydrologist.

Yet the government and the department still refuse to regulate or place controls on the mineral exploration industry.  They show no respect or care for our ground water systems whatsoever.

Photo: Ian Hansen & his water drilling rig
I am a water driller and my career of 35 years has taken me across a large percentage of Queensland and I come across these holes nearly everywhere I go. I wish to raise some concerns I have with the integrity and the accuracy of the Queensland Water Commission Surat Underground Water Impact Report.

The Queensland Water Commission has made bold predictions on the impact the dewatering of the Walloons will have on other aquifers without taking into consideration these open test holes.  It is humanly impossible to calculate the effect they will have as there are no records available of these holes that may date back 50 to 60 years when portable rotary drilling rigs first became readily available. Also there is still no legislation today that requires the sealing of these holes drilled by mineral exploration drillers. Everyday another hole is drilled through these aquatards and left open their permeability is increased by an unpredictable degree.

In 1994 I was at a drilling seminar in Dalby where a senior hydrologist with the department of natural resources and mines presented a paper on the Abandonment of Test Holes and Bores.  Some of the points he made to why this is a very important practice to properly seal these holes are.
·         The elimination of physical hazards.

·         Prevent contamination of ground water.

·         Conserve yield and hydrostatic head of aquifers.

·         Prevent poor quality water beds mixing with good quality water beds.
 He also stated “All the care in the world with the construction of a production bore can be negated if test holes drilled in the vicinity are left open and not securely sealed”.

This was presented in 1994 long before the advent of coal seam gas which requires the dewatering of the Walloons to release the gas and in turn creates a huge pressure differential between the aquifers.

At every drillers meeting or seminar I have attended over the last 35 years this practice of the mineral exploration industry leaving holes open and not sealed has been mentioned and complained about, but the department and the government continue to refuse to act on this situation. 

If I as a licensed water driller were to leave a hole open and in this condition I would be prosecuted and be fined a possible $50,000 by the department because of the risks I would create to our ground water supplies. Yet the same department says it is OK for mineral exploration drillers to leave test holes in this condition.  They apparently don’t create the same risks.
The department of natural resources and mines along with the state government have over the years placed many restrictions on ground water use and also the drilling of new water bores in an effort to save our so precious ground water reserves. The most recent being a moratorium on the drilling of new water bores in towns within the Murray Darling catchment because the water system has been over allocated.

This is a very hypocritical view of the department and the government because with the dewatering of the coal seams it is only going to take one of these exploration holes that are left open through a multiple aquifer system to deplete very large volumes of water from any one system.

I have had reports from employees on exploration rigs where they have been core sampling at 800 meters and when they were finished they just pack up and drive away and leave the holes open.

It will only take one hole left open through the Condamine Alluvium to the Walloon coal seams to delete more water from the Alluvium aquifers than all the stock and domestic bores within this system put together.

One hole through the Bungle and Mooga formations, the Gubberamunda or the Springbok formations would be capable of leaking enough water to have a serious impact on any one of these aquifers with the dewatering of the coal seams.
Any holes drilled into the Huttons will also cause serious losses from this formation as the Huttons are under a great deal of pressure. At 600 meters the vertical upward pressure of the Huttons would be in excess of 800p.s.i.

Image sourced from Surat underground water impact report

I know first-hand how tight and dense these shale layers or aquatards are as I have drilled through them many times constructing water bores. But they are of no value as a confining layer when drilled full of holes and left open.
In the Surat Underground Water Impact Report it states
"The degree of interaction between the coal units which form part of the Walloon Coal Measures and the overlying and underlying aquifers is directly influenced by the vertical permeability and the thickness of the aquatard layers."

 So as the water table is lowered within the Wallooons to release the gas there will be an uncontrollable movement of water through these aquatards via the countless thousands of holes that have been drilled and left open by the exploration drillers.
Also as the gas pressure increases due to the lowering of the water table there will be uncontrollable volumes of gas able to escape to the atmosphere via these same holes.

Therefore this Surat Underground Water Impact report has little credibility. Not until every hole is located and sealed to a satisfactory standard could any hydrology report carry any credit at all.

Follow up article - Arrow through cockatoo’s tin hut