Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Farmer's Gas Pipeline Battle Bitter Environment Dispute over Land Treatment Pipeline Construction Turns Sour

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Farmer's Gas Pipeline Battle Bitter Environment Dispute over Land Treatment Pipeline Construction Turns Sour

Article excerpt

Byline: Tegan Annett tegan.annett@gladstoneobserver.com.au

A FARMER'S love for the land has resulted in a long and bitter dispute with an international mining giant.

As Gladstone prepared for a gas boom in 2010, Santos was constructing a pipeline through 114 properties to connect its Curtis Island LNG plant to gas fields in the Surat Basin.

Two of those south-west Queensland properties - Inala and Mulawa - belonged to cattle grazier Stephen Swan.

Mr Swan, an experienced farmer and grazier, accused the mining giant of breaching the "environmental authorities" and damaging his land.

But last week Swan's pleas for Santos to "organically certify" his land were denied when Judge John Robertson dismissed the case in the Planning and Environment Court in Maroochydore.

Mr Swan alleged that during and after construction of the pipeline Santos caused "irreversible damage to his property" by removing good red soils, damaging the soil profiles and creating safety risks for his cattle.

"He impressed me as a passionate man with a real and abiding love for his property; a grazier who has always operated his business to the highest standards of land management and animal husbandry," Judge Robertson said in court.

But in a case that questioned the toll of Queensland's growing gas industry on farming communities, Mr Swan turned "stubborn" toward Santos and its workers.

At its peak there were up to 300 contractors on his property, most were employees of gas contractor Saipem.

Two independent investigators, one chosen by Mr Swan and another by Santos, reviewed Mr Swan's properties for damages and provided recommendations for rehabilitation.

Court documents reveal both Santos' agronomist Neil Sutherland and Mr Swan's chosen expert Steve Dudgeon agreed the land surface had not been "returned to a condition pre-construction use". …

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