Roadshow opening address

Opening address

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[welcome to country in Ngunnawal language]. Hi, everyone, my name is Nick Blong. I'm joining you today from Ngunnawal Country. I'd like to acknowledge and pay respects to the elders past, present and emerging from the many lands represented on this roadshow and extend that acknowledgement to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people present today. It is my great pleasure to welcome you today to the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Roadshow Webinar. Today's webinar is a true celebration of scientific research innovation. You'll hear from 10 leading independent scientists about their research, focused on increasing the understanding and potential impacts of shale and tight gas development on water and the environment.

The Minister of the Environment Susan Ley and Minister of Resources and Water Keith Pitt released the final stage of their reports of the geological and bioregional assessment program on Wednesday, 22 September. This event marked the culmination of four years and $35 million worth of work, but also an enormous collaborative effort from the dedicated teams in the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology

Independent scientific studies by some of these most respected scientific organisations in Australia, underpin the program's results and provide a detailed look into the potential impacts from shale and tight gas developments on water resources and environment and how these impacts can be mitigated. The program's produced geological and environmental knowledge, data and tools that will assist governments, industry and the community by informing decision-making and enabling the coordinated management and potential impacts.

These outcomes support the program's commitment to providing transparent and accessible scientific information about the potential impacts of unconventional gas resource development on water and the environment. The focus of the program's final studies was on key gas resources in the Cooper Basin, located across the northeast of South Australia and the southwest of Queensland, and in the Beetaloo Sub-basin in the Northern Territory. These regions are both highly prospective for gas but also contain unique water-related and environmental features. The program's scientific studies provide important information about these features and provide regulators, industry and community groups with critical details to support their complex decision-making processes.

The results also provide a transparent, common language that governments at all levels can use to clearly and transparently describe how decisions are made on unconventional gas resource developments. The extensive information and data gathered by the science team under this program led to the development of an industry first online tool called GBA Explorer. The GBA Explorer is a visual tool that allows users to interact with the program's regional scale impact assessments and the resulting mitigation measures. Users are able to drill down and focus only on the things that are of particular interest to their work, rather than having to trawl through large documents and data sets.

Of course, if the need arises, supporting documents and underpinning scientific data can be accessed easily through the tool at the click of a button and is also available on the GBA website. We anticipate this tool with its information maps and data will be incredibly valuable in supporting governments, industry, landowners and the community by providing independent verification of potential impacts and mitigation measures and focusing on areas of real concern. Decision-making processes will be more efficient and based on trusted, robust, transparent science.

The program deliberately decided to apply user-centred design principles to focus the science underpinning each assessment. By engaging in a meaningful way with the people who live and work in each of the regions, the program is able to ensure that the matters of greatest interest to the local community were addressed through scientific study. To achieve this, the program created a user panel in each of the regions. User panel's provided a clear pathway for supporting stronger relationships between the program in key community groups and stakeholders. The user panels provided forms for targeted stakeholder engagement and dialogue through the life of the program. The panels were highly valued and played a key role in achieving to each of the impact assessment outcomes.

The work carried out under this program should give all Australians assurance that decisions about unconventional gas resources in the Cooper and Beetaloo basins are based on robust, real world scientific information and data for each region. While today is about celebrating both the program's achievements and the groundbreaking science that had been undertaken over the last four years. It's also an important opportunity to reflect on this work. The program has resulted in a number of key findings, for example, that regulation and management of environmental impacts is strong, but also that strict compliance with those regulations is essential.

The program has also developed a unique methodology. The method provides a clear, transparent approach to looking at complex questions, allowing us to disentangle complexities and focus on where legitimate, risk based we could use, that actually exists and in response, apply treatments to manage them. It's an approach that can be applied to other scenarios or locations in the future. Before I finish, I'd particularly like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the close collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the Department on this program. Of course, the time and effort for more participants in user groups over the life of the program too. Thank you for your time. Enjoy the webinar.

About the presenter

Nick Blong

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment 

Nick is the First Assistant Secretary of the Portfolio Strategy Division.

Nick is a highly experienced economist, policy advisor and senior executive with more than 20 years experience, including as a ministerial advisor, economic consultant, project manager and government official.

Last updated:
15 November 2021