Research: does CSG cause farmer stress?

RESEARCH into how the coal seam gas industry is affecting farmers’ mental health is likely to reach the boardrooms of resource companies, the academic carrying out the study says.

University of New England researcher Methuen Morgan said he wanted to turn anecdotal reports of farmer ‘‘distress’’ throughout NSW and Queensland into data on the effects of exploration and production on people’s health and the environment.

He wants Hunter landowners to be part of the study.

‘‘It is a huge issue,’’ Mr Morgan said.

‘‘We have just followed Arrow Energy around in Queensland and the information they were providing was distressing to some farmers.

‘‘For example they [farmers] were told the cumulative draw-down on aquifers was up to 125 metres – water levels would fall by 125 metres.

‘‘The company says it will make good but it is distressing for them [farmers] to have to rely on others for their water.’’

He said the farmers had been told by the state government the underground water available to the resource companies was no longer available to the farmers because their use was not sustainable.

‘‘This is a double standard,’’ he said.

Mr Morgan said some farmers saw benefits in the industry using their land.

‘‘They say ‘this is my superannuation’,’’ he said.

Mr Morgan said there had been studies on the effects of drought on farmers’ well-being but he wanted to assess the effects of a ‘‘man-made’’ event, such as the rapid encroachment of coal seam gas exploration.

Mr Morgan’s research survey is likely to continue for another six weeks.

He hopes to collate responses from about 400 landowners.

Mr Morgan is in the school of behavioural, cognitive and social sciences at the university, where he is also a PhD candidate.

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