Project summary: 

Identifying mechanisms to understand, measure and respond to cumulative socio-economic impacts of resource development represents a priority area for the Social Performance stream in the Centre for Coal Seam Gas.These cumulative impacts are the successive, incremental and combined effects (both positive and negative) on communities and their environment from multiple projects in a region. In this case, we are tracking impacts of the CSG mega projects on the Western Downs of Queensland.

Cumulative impacts present significant challenges for regulators, who historically have focused on project-by project approval. Project proponents in an area typically have their impacts and reputations entangled with those of a range of other players, both other businesses but also nature, for example, extended drought. Residents and businesses in communities and regions can face impacts that are unexpected and seemingly disproportionate to the resource development that they were told to expect. Among these stakeholders, government has an interest in greater coherence and efficiency across agencies. Industry desires certainty and increasingly needs to accommodate coordinated effort across companies. The community seeks trusted counterparts and a voice in decision-making.

These challenges are particularly evident in the Western Downs region of Queensland. Large-scale development is proceeding at what a number of stakeholders perceive as a rapid rate. Dealing with the challenges presented by cumulative impacts requires identification of salient and credible indicators of impact at the regional scale. One also needs to ensure that this information is used to inform the decision-making of key actors. For example, an unusual spike in housing prices during the project's construction phase must be seen as an anomaly, not to be expected during the coming operations phase.

‘Salient’ indicators are those that draw on appropriate data and suggest important implications for industry, government, residents, and others. ‘Credible’ indicators are those that are accepted as legitimate, reliable, and believable by key stakeholders. In developing indicators that meet these criteria, the project has two key aims:

  1.  limit the negative impact of ‘consultation fatigue’ in impacted communities; and
  2. develop mechanisms for bridging a gap between the measurement and forecasting of impacts (a research process) and ongoing governance processes (decision-making processes). That is, we are working to identify mechanisms to ensure that cumulative impact can be calculated and reported on. At the same time, we are seeking to make the understanding of cumulative impacts an accepted frame of reference for ongoing, collaborative decision-making in the region.
Project status: 
Project leader or contact: 
Start date: 
August 2012
Completion date: 
June 2016
Output availability: 
Geological formation: 


  1. This project has developed the UQ Cumulative Impacts online Tool Kit to provide stakeholders with information about changes across regional towns. The use of this tool kit across multiple sectors will foster a common understanding of socio-economic cumulative impacts of CSG and identify methods to address them. This tool kit provides an adaptive assessment and monitoring framework to help inform decision making among stakeholders and help attain socioeconomic benefits for the region.
  2. Uhlmann, V., Rifkin, W., Everingham, J., Head, B., and May, K. (2014) Prioritising indicators of cumulative socio-economic impacts to characterise rapid development of onshore gas resources, The Extractive Industries and Society, 1(2), 189-199.
  3. Trigger, D., Keenan, J., de Rijke, K., and Rifkin, W. (2014) Aboriginal engagement and agreement-making with a rapidly developing resource industry: Coal seam gas development in Australia, The Extractive Industries and Society, 1(2), 176-188. 
  4. Rifkin, W., Uhlmann, V., Everingham, J.-A., and May, K. (2014) Tracking the Boom in Queensland’s Gasfields, International Journal of Rural Law and Policy, special edition 1, 1-9. 
  5. Rifkin, W., Everingham, J., Witt, K., Uhlmann, V. (2015) Lessons CSG operators can learn from Southern Queensland Towns, Gas Today, 31, 76-79. link to article
  6. Rifkin, W., Witt, K., Everingham, J., Uhlmann, V. (2015) Benefits and Burdens for Rural Towns from Queensland's Onshore Gas Development, In: SPE Asia Pacific Unconventional Resources Conference and Exhibition, Brisbane, 9-11 November, 2015. SPE-176941.


The data and town profile components of the Boomtown Toolkit are being used to monitor and understand changes in ten communities in regional Queensland. Annual updates are released on the Annual Report on Queensland's Gasfield Regions website.

Resource type: 
Project output: 
Record number: 
This information has been collated by the Centre for Coal Seam Gas. The project summary on this page may be a reproduction or adaptation of the researcher’s own published description of the project, which is generally available via the link to online information located beneath the summary. In other cases, the summary has been provided directly by the researcher or their organisation.