Queensland Premier Campbell Newman
has asked the people of Queensland to judge his government on its
performance. So let’s judge it on its approach to managing our most
precious resource – water. Tom Crothers reports.
Since coming to office in March 2012 the Newman Government has
removed the moratorium on water development on Cape York Peninsular
before the Water Resource Plan had been developed. This allows
landholders on the Cape to secure large quantities of water entitlement
for minimal cost while the water plan is still being prepared.
Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps led the charge to repeal the Wild Rivers Act;
legislation that protected the water quality of streams/rivers and
prevented inappropriate development on adjoining floodplains in
undeveloped river systems.
Minister Cripps also amended the Water Act
to progressively dismantle Queensland’s water planning and allocation
framework – recognised as one of the best frameworks in Australia.
Cripps also amended
the Mineral Resources Act, allowing miners unlimited interference and
access to associated groundwater in their mining operations. This will
potentially result in a decline or loss of water supplies for existing
landholders and rural communities.
The government also removed the rights of the general public, local
authorities and interest groups to object and appeal to the granting of
an environmental authority (without an EA [environmental authority] the
miners cannot commence water extraction) and the granting of a mining
Minister Cripps’ department went on to amend the
Cooper Creek Resource Operations Plan to allow the trading of large
“sleeper” water licences without following the due processes of the Water Act 2000.
At Deputy Premier Seeney’s direction, Minister Cripps passed retrospective legislation
to allow a sand and gravel operation in the Brisbane River (at Harlin)
to continue excavations, thus ceasing a DNR&M compliance
investigation for unauthorised removal of sand and gravel resource.
The Coordinator-General has approved the extraction of up to 1770GL of groundwater from the Galilee Basin
aquifers by the Alpha, Kevin’s Corner, Galilee Coal and Carmichael mega
coal mines. This will have significant impacts on the water supplies of
up to 39 landholders with existing rights and livelihoods that depend
on access to this water.
Minister Cripps ignored the recommendations of the landholder’s Land Court
appeal to the Alpha Mine – which outlined that a “more cautious
approach” be taken in the management of the Galilee Region’s groundwater
resources and progressed legislation that allows miners a statutory
right to access associated groundwater without and Water act approvals.
The heavily LNP stacked Agriculture, Resources and Environment
Parliamentary Committee ignored stakeholder submissions to address the
serious flaws in the current “Make Good Arrangements” framework for
landholders impacted by mining and gas operations. The current framework
is still seriously flawed and heavily slanted in favour of the
The Newman Government has by no means finished dismantling good
public policy. If returned to government next week it proposes two more
significant changes. The first is to allow up to 522GL/annum of water to
be taken from the Gilbert River and up to 385GL/annum to be taken from
the Flinders River in the Gulf of Carpentaria for new irrigation
projects. This will have unknown impacts on the Gulf’s barramundi and
The second is to allow fracking and the take of water from the GAB in
the Cooper Basin for deep gas and oil production. Fracking has been
banned in a number of States in the USA, including New York State due to
identified health impacts. At risk is a clean, green beef industry and
growing tourism sector.
The Newman Government has made much of its “Strong Plan” for
Queensland. Judging by its past performance, this will cause
irreversible damage to our water resources, destroy our rich
biodiversity and internationally recognised ecosystems and even further
diminish the rights of Queensland landholders.
Before casting their votes on Saturday, rural Queenslanders should
carefully consider the Newman government’s disappointing performance –
and ask themselves just whose interests this “Strong Plan” will serve
over the next 3 years.