In November 2015, the Environment and Public Affairs Committee handed down the Implications for Western Australia of Hydraulic Fracturing for Unconventional Gas report over the contentious issue of fracking. It was not a rushed process, the Committee having been given the terms of reference in August 2013. 12 recommendations were made to WA Government ranging from dispute resolution mechanisms to banning of certain chemical compounds. Recently, the WA Government published their response, incorporating 10 of the 12 recommendations, but one those recommendations not supported has caused the most concern.
This particular recommendation relates to the WA Government establishing a statutory body, like the GasFields Commission in Queensland, who can act as a mediator between land owners and resource companies in land access negotiations involving shale gas. In its response, the WA Government stated that the process for negotiating access agreements with land owners has ‘developed significantly’ since the Committee reported in November of last year. In this instance people may be forgiven for wondering what was going for the two years that the Committee was analysing the issue. The WA Government response went on to note that a statutory body may be considered in the future if recommended by a working group made up of (as yet) unknown stakeholders.
Considering the recent downward trend in global gas prices the WA Government may be wanting to ensure that gas fields can be established as expeditiously as possible however, as has been shown in New South Wales and Queensland, effective opposition can be mobilised to great effect when local landowners feel excluded from the decision making process although this has been hampered in NSW with the recent passing of a tough new law.
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