The death of Queensland farmer George Bender has renewed calls for a state government to better protect farmers against the impacts of mining activity.
In the years leading up to his death, Mr Bender, who took his own life, fought to prevent his cotton property becoming a “gas field”.
Located at Chinchilla, about 300km west of Brisbane, the property was in the sights of Origin Energy which wanted to drill for natural gas. He was involved in a long-running dispute with resources companies.
But Mr Bender claimed the activity would suck dry vital water bores on his 2000 acre property and interfere with the running of the farm, he said in a video posted by Lock the Gate Alliance.
“You’ve got to agree to their terms or else. I just reckon it’s just all one-sided for the resources companies,” he said.
Following his death last week, Mr Bender’s daughter Helen said that he did not have a history of depression or mental health issues and had “died of a broken heart”.
“He fought to protect the air, land and water from the inevitable permanent damage that this industry is causing and has caused overseas,” Ms Bender said at a community meeting on coal seam gas (CSG).
“His struggles were not just for himself and his family, but for the whole country that depends on the agricultural and environmental resources unique to the Western Downs area.
“He was prepared to fight for what he truly believed in and call others to account.
“The tragedy is, in fighting for his country, his struggles are now his legacy, but it is the determination of those who have known and loved George Bender that his sacrifice not be forgotten.”
A vigil was held for Mr Bender on Thursday outside the Brisbane office of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesman Drew Hutton called on Ms Palaszczuk to help farmers suffering under current legislation.
He said it favoured the mining companies and did not adequately protect farmers’ rights to prevent access to their land.
“Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to understand that if one more farmer dies as a result of the bullying and the pressure that these companies put on farmers that she will have blood on her hands,” Mr Hutton said.
Why do farmers oppose CSG?
Natural gas mined through CSG can be used around the home for cooking and heating, as well as for operations on an industrial scale.
It is found underground in high-pressure compartments that are generally filled with water.
The gas is promoted by mining companies as a greener energy choice, but for affected farmers it can mean a loss of control over their own land.
CSG mining can also severely impact groundwater aquifers, a major source of water for some properties.
For some farmers, like Mr Bender, it leads to bore holes that supply water from the aquifer to run dry.
Independent federal senator Glenn Lazarus said he had known Mr Bender for some time and was “gutted” by his death.
“Not only does this community have to live with this scourge of CSG … mining on a daily and nightly basis, now they have to deal with one of their most-respected and most-loved community members taking his life,” he said.
-with ABC, AAP
For help with emotional difficulties, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au