Off Limits

ABC TV - Landline - 25.9.2011

In Queensland, the State Labor Government, perhaps with one eye on next year’s election, is set to throw a protective cordon around prime farmland at the expense of gas and mining developments.
Not surprisingly, the resources sector says Anna Bligh’s gone too far.
Yet farmers in one of the state’s best cropping areas are angry that an exemption’s already been given a proposed coal mining project.
And as Peter McCutcheon found during a visit to Queensland’s Central Highlands, defining what constitutes prime farmland is proving just as difficult.
These stories are about mining, or more particularly a proposed coal mine under wheat crops. And also widespread scepticism in the farming community about the Queensland Government’s attempts to restrict mining in one of Australia’s food bowls.
As Ben Sullivan said, “We feel like we’re a political football at the moment bouncing from one side to the other, and really we’re ready to grasp onto anything to help the farming community.”

Now rehabilitation sounds great in theory, but farmers here say cropping is a precision science, as demonstrated by this re-levelling of cotton fields damaged in the last wet season.
BEN SULLIVAN: “I don’t see how you can take something out from lower down, that it’s not going to subside on the top and that’s going to change the way water flows and it’s going to make it near impossible to grow crops. And we’ve asked to take us somewhere and prove to us so we can feel safe in ourselves and our kids’ future to show us where this has been done, but I’m still waiting.”
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