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During rapid resource development in a highly contested arena, effective processes for characterising cumulative, social and economic impacts are needed. In this article, we explain a strategy that uses an iterative process involving stakeholders to identify indicators of impacts of onshore natural gas development. The aim of the strategy is to arrive at a small set of indicators that those in the community, government and industry agree are salient and credible.
Four major joint ventures are investing more than A$60 billion to tap Queensland, Australia’s onshore natural gas resources. Thousands of wells are reaching into natural gas in seams of coal that lie below aquifers that residents refer to as essential for their heavily agricultural region. The magnitude of these developments has been depicted as threatening the traditional base of political power that has rested with farmers. Nearby coal mining has given some communities the experience of the boomtown cycle, but it is placing unfamiliar strains on municipal resources in other towns. Gas companies provide funds in attempts to mitigate impacts, satisfying requirements of their elaborate social impact management plans (SIMPs).
The research reported in this paper, though only mid-way to completion, suggests that an action-research approach to developing indicators of cumulative impacts on housing, business, employment, liveability and trust in government shows promise for enabling stakeholders to track the multi-faceted effects of a resource boom. We hope that such work helps stakeholders to mitigate the ups and downs of the cycle of boom, bust and recovery that can be driven by resource development.
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