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By Claire Harris 22 September 2016 3 min read

NSW Regional Research Advisory Committee on a field trip in Narrabri.

Most people have by now heard of coal seam gas (CSG) extraction and the controversy in some regional areas in Australia. While the debate continues there is a multi-disciplinary and cross-organisational alliance working to explore and develop scientifically-based evidence to guide management options into the future.

After starting five years ago with a focus on Queensland, GISERA (the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance), is now expanding nationally. GISERA’s primary goal is to understand the impacts and opportunities from different gas development scenarios and provide independent information for the benefit of Australian communities.

Thanks to a $3 million investment from the Australian and New South Wales governments and cash contributions from partners — Australia Pacific LNG, QGC, AGL, Santos, Origin Energy and CSIRO — GISERA will be starting a number of new projects in the NSW areas of Macarthur and Narrabri. The expansion plan also paves the way for work in the Northern Territory next.

Dr Damian Barrett, CSIRO Research Director Onshore Gas and GISERA Director, said that the success of providing independent and trusted information to all stakeholders in the community, government and gas industry, in Queensland has opened doors for the national expansion.

“Communities across Australia continue to have similar questions about the impacts and opportunities of the natural gas industry. The recent commitment from new gas industry partners as well as the Federal and NSW governments will ensure GISERA continues to be at the forefront of delivering quality assured scientific information to all stakeholders,” he said.

“GISERA has already demonstrated its ability to deliver independent, trusted and transparent advice on gas development issues. The publicly available Alliance Agreement outlines the standards for the governance and operation of GISERA, ensuring the research undertaken by CSIRO is demonstrably independent.”

While taking a national focus, GISERA has moved to setup Regional Research Advisory Committees (RRAC) wherever GISERA operates. Following on from the committee in Queensland, operating since 2011, the NSW RRAC held its first meeting in Narrabri in May 2016. The Committee reviewed research proposals that ranged from gathering greenhouse gas data to social and economic impacts on the local community.

What are the impacts of CSG on regional fauna like the Golden-tailed gecko or Strophurus taenicauda? Image: Eric Vanderduys.

As Australia’s national science research agency, CSIRO has worked for many years with industry, government and communities involved in gas developments. A number of research and communication projects have been delivered since GISERA got off the ground.

Research has supported the management of agriculture, water, greenhouse gas, terrestrial biodiversity, the marine environment and socio-economic impacts and opportunities. Some highlights from terrestrial biodiversity, socio-economic and agriculture projects include:

  • The first ever detailed region-wide analysis of the cost-effectiveness of different strategies to improve the outlook of 179 threatened species in the Brigalow Belt in Queensland was delivered in June 2016. Twelve strategies were developed through a consultation process with 40 experts and stakeholders in biodiversity and land management of the region, using the best available scientific data and expert knowledge.
  • Researchers have explored the potential impacts from CSG development on the threatened golden‐tailed gecko and near-threatened glossy black-cockatoo in the Surat region of southern and central Queensland. Seven management recommendations have been put forward for the glossy black‐cockatoo plus five recommendations for the golden‐tailed gecko in the final report.
  • CSIRO conducted a Community Wellbeing and Responding to Change Survey to understand the community and its views towards CSG development. Overall community wellbeing in the Western Downs region remains robust and relatively unchanged since it was measured in 2014. The research also showed that community attitudes vary across a wide spectrum but most people have moderate or ‘luke-warm’ views towards CSG development.
  • Soil compaction is an important consideration for managing agricultural land as it reduces water infiltration and crop yield. Research on the Darling Downs found that compaction is higher in areas around CSG wells than in neighbouring fields. The researchers report that rehabilitating damage to the surface 30 cm may remove most of the impact on crop production.

There are currently 25 research projects underway. To keep up with the latest GISERA news visit News and events.

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