The onshore gas industry can impact regional communities in various ways.
Therefore, it is essential that resource companies operating within Queensland’s onshore gas industry communicate with councils early in the project planning phase to ensure there is adequate capacity within the community to cater for the different phases of gas field development and production activities.
Social impacts from the onshore gas industry
The arrival of the onshore gas industry can have a significant social impact on regional communities in Queensland. Hence, resource companies operating within Queensland’s onshore gas industry are required to include a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) as part of the approval process for their environmental impact statement (EIS) in line with the Queensland Government’s SIA Guidelines.
SIA is a process for the identification, analysis, assessment, management and monitoring of the social impacts of a project, both positive and negative. The social impacts of a project are the direct and indirect impacts that affect people and their communities at all stages of the project lifecycle.
Once the impacts are identified, resource companies are required to consult with communities and local councils to develop a social impact management plan (SIMP) and report on this as part of their SIA commitments.
When resource companies are able to engage as early as possible with local councils and work through these issues they may be better positioned to plan for future infrastructure needs, mitigate the impacts of projects on the local community and plan for longer term economic growth.
A project’s SIA must address the following key matters (these key matters illustrate a range of prompts for councils about the ways that industry operations could affect their activities and the delivery of infrastructure and services in their local community):
Community and stakeholder engagement
This matter applies to the SIA requirements for engagement with potentially impacted communities and stakeholders. The SIA report must include an explanation of the community and stakeholder engagement undertaken during the SIA process, as well as proposed measures for ongoing engagement during construction and operation. This objective is to ensure transparent and inclusive community and stakeholder engagement informs the SIA process, and the ongoing management and monitoring of potential social impacts during the construction and operational phases of the project.
This matter applies to the SIA requirements for the assessment and management of potential social impacts associated with the project workforce during the construction and operational phases. The project workforce includes employees of the project, as well as personnel engaged by principal contractors and subcontractors. This objective is to ensure project workforce management practices:
- prioritise recruitment of workers from local and regional communities and workers who will live in regional communities;
- reduce the proportion of workers engaged in FIFO arrangements, where operationally feasible; and
- support the health and well-being of the project workforce.
Housing and accommodation
This matter applies to the SIA requirements for the assessment and management of potential social impacts from project housing and accommodation arrangements for the project workforce during the construction and operational phases. This objective is to ensure project housing and accommodation arrangements:
- do not contribute to significant affordability and availability impacts on housing and accommodation in local and regional communities; and
- are well planned, enhance worker well-being, and do not place an excessive burden on existing infrastructure, facilities and services used by local and regional communities.
Local business and industry procurement
This matter applies to the SIA requirements for the assessment and management of potential social impacts associated with the procurement of goods and services for the project during the construction and operational phases. This objective is to ensure project procurement practices:
- maximise opportunities for competitive and capable local businesses to provide goods and services to the project; and
- reduce barriers to entry for local businesses where feasible.
Health and community well-being
This matter applies to the SIA requirements for the assessment and management of potential social impacts from the project to the health and well-being of potentially impacted communities during the construction and operational phases. This matter includes physical and mental health, as well as social, cultural and economic well-being. This objective is to ensure the project:
- avoids or mitigates negative social impacts and capitalises on opportunities to
improve the health and well-being of local and regional communities; and
- does not adversely impact on the level of service to local and regional communities from existing social services, facilities and infrastructure.
Addressing the key matters listed above in a SIA is a statutory requirement for large resource projects under section 9(4) of the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017.
Road impacts and regional communities
Increased traffic flows resulting from onshore gas industry activity can impact existing road networks in regional communities. It is essential that resource companies communicate with both local and state government from the project planning phase through to the operational phase.
The process for identifying and managing the impacts on local and state roads from individual onshore gas projects located in Queensland typically involves 3 key steps:
1. Estimating project traffic and assessing potential road impacts
In Queensland, resource companies are generally required to prepare a road impact assessment as part of the approval process for their project’s EIS.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads has established a ‘Guide to Traffic Impact Assessment‘ which provides the proponent with advice on how to assess the traffic and pavement impacts of their proposed development.
2. Proposing ways of mitigating road impacts of project traffic in consultation with road authorities
Following the road impact assessment, resource companies are required to hold negotiations with both local councils and the Queensland Government in relation to their roads.
These negotiations consider how best to address and mitigate road impacts – for example through contributing to minor road or intersection improvements, to road maintenance and/or to manage impacts through the resource company’s road-use management plan.
Financial arrangements are detailed in separate road infrastructure agreements between resource companies and the local councils for affected local roads and the Queensland Government for state roads.
These agreements are regularly reviewed by local councils and the Queensland Government in line with the progressive development of onshore gas projects.
3. Agreeing on managing road impacts
Resource companies are also required to develop a road-use management plan that outlines how they will manage the impacts of their project traffic and their use of local and state roads throughout different phases of the project.
The road-use management plan and road infrastructure agreements for local and state roads provide the basis for managing roads impacts of onshore gas projects in Queensland.