Mining industry 'catalyst' to building up rural towns

A NEWLY-established Gasfields Commission will use the mining exploration industry as the "catalyst" to building up rural towns as attractive places to live and work.

John Cotter was appointed as the chairman of the Gasfields Commission, an independent group established to manage the co-existence between landholders and the coal seam gas industry.

The co-existence is particularly strained in rural Queensland, including the Darling Downs, where the CSG movement has taken off and left some local governments challenging to keep up.

At a parliamentary committee briefing on Wednesday, Mr Cotter referred to the mistrust between many mining proponents and communities as a major impediment to the growth of the industry.

The seven-member commission also wants to prevent the emergence of ghost towns, like the Darling Downs township of Acland.

A few years ago the rural community was reduced to one resident, after most sold out to New Hope Coal whose once-proposed open cut mine threatened to swallow the township.

"...people don't want ghost towns out there and I certainly don't either," Mr Cotter said.

"We want to see them at a sustainable level.

"A great challenge is what industries can develop on the back of this to make these communities grow. We have seen the demise of rural Queensland populations for a long time."

Mr Cotter said it was time to "look outside the square".

"If we use this industry as the catalyst for providing good services and good communities to live then there is no reason why other businesses can't be there to help sustain them," he said.

The State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee heard coal seam gas made up 90% of domestic gas in south-east Queensland.

The hotly-debated onshore mining practice also makes up 90% of issues that come across the Gasfields Commission desk.

A public hearing regarding the Gasfield Commission will be held in Toowoomba on Friday.



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