A comparative analysis of the water and environmental law reforms enacted in two eastern Australian States driven by large-scale unconventional gas resource projects

Neil A. Coles (Lead / Corresponding author), Sarah Hendry (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The story of fracking in Australia is still unfolding and affecting rural communities, where shallow watertables, agricultural lands, community livelihoods and societal cohesion are impacted. Unconventional gas, specifically coal seam gas (CSG), released by fracking, was heralded globally as the new way forward in delivering cheaper energy for the future. The impact of gas extraction methodologies, industry governance and environmental policies adopted across different regions has influenced the broader community understanding of energy and water security, and environmental sustainability. This review assesses the use of water and environmental law to manage: a) the risk that the CSG industry may pose to Australia’s natural land and water resources, and agricultural development and; b) the potential to deliver the benefits offered by CSG.

The critical drivers for CSG development, level of community involvement, government policy engagement and potential long-term benefits are examined. A brief summary of alternative strategies deployed governments to manage, contain or embargo the development of the unconventional gas industry is given. The review examines alternate legal frameworks for addressing sustainability challenges associated with large-scale natural resource (LSNR) projects. How strong leadership and appropriate governance and policy settings can deliver balanced outcomes for water and energy security. The methodology adopted in this paper, uses a comparative analysis of the legislative and regulatory approaches in two eastern Australian States, namely New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD) and the relevant Federal legislation that provides the governance framework for initiating and monitoring LSNR energy projects, while delivering environmental protection and water security.
Original languageEnglish
Commissioning bodyUNESCO
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameGlobal Water Security Issues (GWSI) Case Studies: Water Security and the Sustainable Development Goals
PublisherUNESCO i-WSSM



  • governance
  • water security
  • environment
  • policy
  • fracking
  • unconventional gas
  • energy
  • communities

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