THE gates to the Southern Downs have effectively been shut to mining companies, in a bold move by Southern Downs Regional Council to safeguard primary agricultural and living areas.
During a meeting of the council last week councillors engaged in rigorous debate on the issue of mining, in response to a letter demanding action from the Southern Downs Protection Group.
Killarney-based Cr Jamie Mackenzie drafted a multi-point resolution, aimed at firming up the council's objections to mining areas of the Southern Downs.
Cr Mackenzie said it was almost impossible for mining and agriculture to co-exist in the region and that the last thing anyone wanted was an Acland coal scenario in the region.
"Just like the Scenic Rim Regional Council in 2012, we are taking the message to the State Government on behalf of the region that alarm bells are ringing about the potential impacts of resource sector development on the 'right to farm', slippage, amenity, the road and rail network, fragile underground water supplies and on the environment," he said.
"Unlike Central Queensland, the Southern Downs region features comparatively dense rural settlement so mining would be on someone's doorstep.
"The Southern Downs' clean air, fabulous vistas and top quality agricultural land makes it prime tourist country, a great place to live and has important agricultural qualities."
Cr Mackenzie's sentiments were supported by fellow councillors, with a packed public gallery watching on in anticipation.
Stanthorpe-based Cr Vic Pennisi said he had thought long and hard about the issue of mining and he was all for supporting the resolution banning exploration on council-owned land.
"I have a passion for our farmers and land," he said.
"The future growth of our region is in agriculture.
"The potential demand on coal may reduce in time - farmers are the people who will continue to provide for the economy."
Cr Pennisi made links between produce exports from Wellcamp Airport to the mining issue.
"The next mining boom will come from our ability to export our produce overseas," he said.
"I am not prepared to risk the ability of our farmers to have that ability to compete on the world stage."
Famed as having some of the best agricultural land in the country, the Southern Downs is home to a significant amount of land classified as Priority Agricultural Areas.
Cr Glyn Rees said food production should take priority over mining in the region.
"While I don't have a problem with mining, I don't see a point in allowing it on the Southern Downs," he said.
"There's no point upending our area's prime agricultural land."
A proposal for coal exploration in Goomburra was also raised, with Deputy Mayor Cr Ross Bartley expressing concern at the effects on underground water supply.
"We have a very fragile system as far as our aquifers are concerned," he said.
"We know how precious that water is and what it produces - it's the lifeblood of our community that provides vital irrigation during dry times."
Despite the strong sentiment a number of councillors expressed the view that they didn't believe Cr Mackenzie's resolution went far enough.
Cr Neil Meiklejohn described the resolution as a 'great start'.
"There are residents in our community who could still be adversely impacted by mining, especially in areas such as Karara and Pikedale," he said.
Significant deposits of minerals underneath farm land were also raised by Stanthorpe-based Cr Cameron Gow, who said he too felt the resolution didn't go far enough.
"It's not just about coal or oil or coal seam gas," he said.
"It's not only about agriculture, it's about living areas as well.
"Now we're dealing with this we should continue to - we need blanket protection."
Each of the seven councillors present voted in favour of the resolution.