Community members encouraged to have their say on future energy development in the Surat Basin

16 February 2023

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University of Queensland researchers are calling on community members and business leaders alike to help explore the expected benefits and challenges of future energy development in the Surat Basin.

The research, being conducted by the UQ Centre for Natural Gas, will use focus groups to develop an understanding of how regional communities expect to benefit from new energy projects and to explore the range of pathways for creating shared value for regional people.

Project leader, Dr Katherine Witt, has been researching the social impacts of the natural gas sector in the Surat Basin for more than a decade. This research identifies and builds on lessons learned from previous project development in the region.

“Across the development of the natural gas industry we have refined our research methodologies so they are now relevant for a variety of energy megaprojects, regardless of energy source or geographic location,” she said.

Two focus groups will be held in Dalby, one for interested community members (limited to 12 participants) and the other for those who may be more directly involved in new energy projects from a business, community organisation or governance perspective.

For the second focus group, researchers are hoping to attract local councillors, business owners and representatives from NGOs who have experience in economic development, training, agriculture, community development, safety or natural resource development.

Participants will be asked about their experiences of previous projects with a particular focus on project communication, local procurement opportunities and whether expectations for co-benefits have been realised.

There will also be an opportunity for people to discuss their hopes for future energy projects and the benefits they would like to see for the region.

“There is the clear expectation that new energy projects – such as onshore gas, large-scale renewables and potentially hydrogen – should deliver real and lasting benefits for the regional communities that host them.

“This research seeks to better understand the types of values that can be created and the pathways for creating them, from a local community’s perspective,” said Dr Witt.  

“Communities in the Surat Basin have already experienced the development of a new energy industry and are now much more informed about what energy projects could look like.  

“We would love to hear their views about how to maximise the benefits and minimise impacts for regional communities”.

The project is being funded through Dr Witt’s Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship, which represents a unique multi-stakeholder partnership between The University of Queensland, CSIRO, Arrow Energy, Santos, APLNG, Comet Ridge, Queensland Farmers’ Federation and Southern Queensland landscapes, together with the Queensland Government.

The confidential two-hour focus groups will be held in Dalby:

  • 1-3pm, 13 March 2023 (subject matter experts)

  • 5.30-7.30pm, 13 March 2023 (interested community members).

Community participants will receive a small honorarium to thank them for their time and light refreshments will be available.

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For more information about the focus groups contact: Dr Tracy Cheung, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Natural Gas, The University of Queensland (E: T 07 3346 3464)

Media Contact: Dr Kathy Witt, Chief Investigator and Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellow (2020-23), Centre for Natural Gas, +61 418 619 341; Anna Moloney, Centre for Natural Gas, +61 478 487 211.