Major survey of farmers’ feelings about coal seam gas mining

Published 11 April 2012

Psychologists at the University of New England are undertaking a major survey of farmers’ thoughts and feelings about the prospect of coal seam gas mining on their own or a neighbour’s land.

The results of the survey will give the researchers an understanding of the extent to which anxiety about coal seam gas mining is contributing to farmers’ overall levels of stress.

Methuen Morgan, who is conducting the survey as part of his postgraduate research at UNE, said he hoped the results would contribute an “unbiased, scientific perspective” to the debate about coal seam gas mining, and allow farmers’ anxieties – and their potential health consequences – to be a consideration in policy development and service provision.

Mr Morgan (pictured here) comes from a family farm near Condamine in Queensland and owns a property just outside Armidale. “I’ve seen coal seam gas mining slowly advancing on Condamine landholders for a couple of years,” he said, “and it’s now reached the point where exploration has started on some properties. Although they’re not necessarily against goal seam gas mining, those people I know feel disempowered because of a lack of consultation. I’ll be interested to see if that’s a widespread feeling.”

The survey seeks information on farmers’ expectations about – and experiences of – coal seam gas mining, their involvement in protests or negotiations, and the sources and levels of anxiety in their lives. Participants should be owners or co-owners of a commercial agricultural property, or responsible for making decisions regarding the day-to-day running of a property.

“It’s one of the most comprehensive rural surveys that’s been undertaken,” Mr Morgan said, “and one of the first associated with the coal seam gas industry. We’re hoping that lots of people will view it as an investment in understanding the contribution of this issue to the stress levels of farmers. Those who have completed the survey in pilot studies have said it has been informative, and has allowed them to have their say about this important issue.”

“We’ve developed the survey in consultation with members of the farming community, activist groups, coal seam gas operators such as Santos, and representatives of peak farming and mining organisations,” he said. “We were determined to ensure that the presentation of the survey was unbiased, and have striven to keep it on as unemotional and objective a level as possible.”

The survey will take between 40 minutes and an hour to complete, and is completely anonymous, allowing participants to feel free to express their true feelings. An online version of the survey is at: http://tinyurl.com/csgsurvey, and hard copies (and more information) are available from Methuen Morgan on (02) 6773 2899 or at mmorgan5@une.edu.au.