In August and September 2014 I travelled through Central Queensland from Dalby to Roma and Chinchilla, up to Alpha and on through Moranbah to Collinsville and Bowen, then down to Gladstone and Avondale.
In every town I talked to people whose lives had been upturned by rapid coal and gas expansion.
Every town had a story: unannounced exploratory drilling followed by the familiar tale of school association sponsorship, branded kids football team jerseys or branded mobile dental services and the appearance of a local familiar face now employed as a CSG or Coal company “community liaison officer” spruiking future job opportunities and development.
The sudden presence of noise and fumes from drilling, alterations in bore water and river patterns being explained away as unremarkable variations. An onset of allergies, respiratory problems, nose bleeds and spikes in the presence of heavy metals in children’s blood tests. Fragmenting of communities as people were divided by the realisation that friends, brothers and community members had a price and it had been reached.
A realisation that local councils, police and state politicians were no longer representing them and would actively work against the people living in the area by denigrating their attempts to preserve their lifestyle and livelihoods or to deny access to information that might inform the local community to the extent of the development.
Avondale, at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, has experienced what is typical of a pattern of events happening across Queensland.