'Locked in' for years

LOCKED IN: Miles landowner and economist Ben Rees at home on his property.
LOCKED IN: Miles landowner and economist Ben Rees at home on his property. Matthew Newton

TWELVE years is a long time to wait for anything, but for a Miles landowner, it's just the beginning.

For 79-year-old Ben Rees, an economist and Miles landowner, the legal process that could lead to gas works by Arrow Energy on his property started 12 years ago.

But with no enforced timeline for the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy to grant petroleum leases (which allow production to begin), Mr Rees said there was no way to know how long the approval process would take, and it had left him and other landholders with an uncertain future for years.

"For the department to allow that (petroleum lease application) to remain on the books for nine years is a disgrace," he said.

He said the problem was that ageing landholders were "locked in" to their properties because gas development was likely to occur at some stage, but landholders were also not compensated because no works had taken place.

"All old people like me and my wife, we've been deprived of our respectable retirement years because... once they take a lease of the resource development over this country no one would buy it, so you're locked in," Mr Rees said.

"Who wants to come out and buy a property in a gas field? That's what it amounts to. People like us can't move on."

An Arrow Energy spokeswoman said the legal processes were under way for a full lease to be approved, which would allow Arrow to start works.

But the legislation allows for petroleum leases on properties to be granted under a "relevant arrangement" which means a company does not necessarily have to produce petroleum straight away.

According to information presented at information sessions held in December, Arrow Energy doesn't plan to expand into Miles until 2022.

The Arrow Energy spokeswoman said the company had applied for a relevant arrangement.

Mr Rees said the situation had arisen out of a failure in the legislation to protect landholders' property rights and keep landholders informed of the legal process.

"The landowner has no rights under the existing system," he said.

A Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy spokeswoman said landholders were able to stay up to date by contacting companies directly, requesting an update from the department, or doing a search online.

But Mr Rees said landholders should not have to go searching for information regarding their own properties, and that doing an internet search would be too complicated for many landowners.

"The landowner should have the right to be told what's going on with his property rights," Mr Rees said.

Topics:  arrow energy ben rees chinchilla department of natural resources miles mines and energy petroleum lease petroleum lease application property rights

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