Coal seam gas development and community conflict: a comparative study of community responses to coal seam gas development in Chinchilla and Tara, Queensland

Makki, Muhammad (2015). Coal seam gas development and community conflict: a comparative study of community responses to coal seam gas development in Chinchilla and Tara, Queensland PhD Thesis, School of Communication and Arts, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.1105

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Author Makki, Muhammad
Thesis Title Coal seam gas development and community conflict: a comparative study of community responses to coal seam gas development in Chinchilla and Tara, Queensland
School, Centre or Institute School of Communication and Arts
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.1105
Publication date 2015-12-03
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Kitty van Vuuren
Daniel Franks
Total pages 264
Language eng
Subjects 1604 Human Geography
1606 Political Science
1608 Sociology
Abstract/Summary The Australian coal seam gas (CSG) industry has grown rapidly from around 1,000 CSG wells in 2009 to more than 6,500 wells in 2014. Exploration and development has occurred in the predominantly agricultural areas of Queensland’s Western Downs. The crossover of these two competing industries, agriculture and CSG, has placed the rural west under a great deal of socio-economic and environmental pressure and led to significant controversy. The rural subdivisions of Tara have become the centre of conflict as the residents have fiercely resisted CSG project development since 2009. Other communities have welcomed CSG and the associated economic development. The empirical research question I address is: Why has conflict emerged in Tara and not in the neighboring community of Chinchilla? The research employs qualitative methods by using ethnographic tools to compare the responses to CSG development in Tara and its rural subdivisions with the neighboring community of Chinchilla. This research follows the emergence and transformation of the CSG conflict in the community of Tara from 2009 to 2014, including the formation of the ‘Lock the Gate’ movement. This research demonstrates that what has been perceived in the media and simplistically labelled as a conflict driven by the environmental impacts of CSG is far more complex. The root causes of this conflict run deeper. Rather than using an environmental lens, this research rather takes a social identity perspective, which has yielded counterintuitive findings. The study reveals that the conflict dramatically emerged because the CSG industry became enmeshed in the stigmatised identity of ‘Blockies’, as the residents of ‘Blocks’ within the Tara subdivisions are called. I also elucidate the fact that the stigmatised Blockies’ failure to sustain this conflict ultimately led to its transformation. The anti-CSG ‘Blockies’ took issue with CSG as a mean to manage, dissolve, and negotiate the stigma attached with the label ‘Blockie’ that socially excluded, discriminated, and marked them as devalued since the subdivisions were established in 1980s. Behind the nexus between the Tara subdivision-based anti-CSG groups and the Lock the Gate movement, no shared encoded meanings or objectives exist. The Blockies’ convergence with the movement was merely commensal in nature, which thus provided the rejected self with a positive reference point and a moral argument for being evaluated through the movement’s identity.
Keyword Coal seam gas
Conflict
Agriculture
Lock the Gate movement
Environmental resistance
Social identity
Social movement
Stigmatised identity
Western Downs

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Created: Mon, 30 Nov 2015, 20:33:31 EST by Muhammad Makki on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service