Angst in Kogan over Linc Energy
A KOGAN landholder is "dumbfounded” by the lack of communication from the State Government over its recent designation of land as "under investigation” for alleged contamination from the Linc Underground Coal Gasification site.
Sharon Lohse, a Kogan resident and the One Nation candidate for Callide, said the feeling among local property owners was that they had been left in the dark by the government.
State Environment Minister Steven Miles last month said the department would keep in communication with the local community and conduct a letterbox drop.
A spokesperson for Dr Miles today said the Palaszczuk Government's priority continues to be providing support and advice to the landholders in the Chinchilla and Hopeland communities.
"(The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection) has been visiting landholders, making personal contact with them. A call centre was also been set up to help explain the situation to landholders,” the spokesperson said.
"We want to reassure the families and landholders that we are listening to their concerns and conducting further testing to better establish the extent of contamination.”
More than 80 concerned landholders packed the Kogan Community Centre on Saturday to find out about the recent designation of an extended Investigation Area over 47,000 hectares of farmland around Kogan because of alleged contamination from the Linc Energy UCG site.
The community meeting was hosted by Marland Law, the law firm acting for the group action against Linc Energy and the State Government.
Mrs Lohse said she and others were yet to have any personal contact from the government.
"And I do expect it,” Mrs Lohse said.
"Even though there's 200-odd landholders, if you have a situation like this, they have the resources to write a letter, to email.”
"That number isn't a significant to get out to. Putting the information on their website and not informing each landholder - it's just astonishing.”
The department's website was quietly updated on February 16 to include an amended map with the additional investigation area included.
The spokesperson said EHP will continue to ensure the community remains informed of the extent of the contamination and the Palaszczuk Government's response to it.
An EHP spokesperson said EHP officers began communicating and meeting with affected landholders as soon as possible after the investigation area was put in place.
"EHP has personally visited landholders who had testing conducted on their properties,” the spokesperson said.
"EHP has mailed information to landholders within both the excavation caution zone and investigation area.
"The Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Deputy Director-General and other departmental officers have visited the area and met with landholders. The Department has also participated in a radio interview.
"Since the announcement was made, farm health assessments requested by landholders have been conducted. More are scheduled. Farm health assessments will be undertaken for all landholders who request them.”
Detailed information on the investigations, including maps of the excavation caution zone and the investigation area, is available at www.ehp.qld.gov.au/management/hopeland.
Marland Law principal Tom Marland spoke to affected landholders at the meeting on Saturday and provided them with an update on the recent designation.
"No one should have to sue their own Government to protect their property and their family” Mr Marland said.
"Unfortunately, it would appear that to bring accountability to Government decision making processes, this is what we are going to have to do
"The fact that there has been no formal announcement by the Government in relation to the additional 47,000 hectares shows their contempt for the people they are meant to protect and demonstrates their ongoing negligence in the management of this disaster
"Right now, we don't know where the Government have tested and what they have found. What we do know is they have felt it necessary to extend the investigation area by 47,000 hectares. They don't do that lightly
"We are now looking at over 100,000 hectares or 250,000 acres of prime farm land that has been placed in limbo as a result of an ill-conceived, highly risky and appallingly managed resource development that the Government themselves instigated.
"We are currently investigating the possibility of adding the new area to our current group action. We will be working through the detail over the next few weeks and will report back to the community around the end of April.
"We might have to book a bigger hall for the next meeting.”
Mr Marland advised landholders to contact the DEHP directly and request a farm health assessment be conducted on their property.
Affected landholders can request an assessment directly from DEHP in writing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A spokesperson for Dr Miles said the Government continues to sample surface soil, surface water, ground water and tank water at Hopeland, on properties where landholders have requested farm health assessments.
"The samples have been submitted to laboratories and results will be provided to individual landholders when received,” the spokesperson said.
An excavation caution zone was put in place in February 2015 when contaminant gasses were detected in soil in the Hopeland area, south of Chinchilla.
An investigation area was established in February this year after ongoing testing revealed hydrogen in the soil at levels below two metres, outside the excavation caution zone.
This investigation area is approximately 425 square kilometres in size and covers about 250 properties.
The government is offering farm health assessments for concerned landholders within these areas. Testing will be ongoing.