The socio-spatial politics of royalties and their distribution: A case study of the Surat Basin, Queensland

Neil Argent, Sean Markey, Greg Halseth, Laura Ryser, Fiona Haslam-McKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper is concerned with the socio-spatial and ethical politics of redistribution, specifically the allocation of natural resources rents from political and economic cores to the economic and geographical peripheries whence the resource originated. Based on a case study of the coal seam gas sector in Queensland's Surat Basin, this paper focuses on the operation of the Queensland State Government's regional development fund for mining and energy extraction-affected regions. Employing an environmental justice framework, we critically explore the operation of these funds in ostensibly helping constituent communities in becoming resilient to the worst effects of the ‘staples trap’. Drawing on secondary demographic and housing data for the region, as well as primary information collected from key respondents from mid-2018 to early 2019, we show that funds were distributed across all of the local government areas, and allocated to projects and places primarily on a perceived economic needs basis. However, concerns were raised with the probity of the funds’ administration. In terms of recognition justice, the participation of smaller and more remote towns and local Indigenous communities was hampered by their structural marginalisation. Procedurally, the funds were criticised for the lack of local consultation taken in the development and approval of projects. While spatially concentrated expenditure may be the most cost-effective use of public monies, we argue that grant application processes should be open, transparent and inclusive, and the outcomes cognisant of the developmental needs of smaller communities, together with the need to foster regional solidarity and coherence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jun 2021

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