Little love for deep water dig
There is very little support for the Queensland Government’s plan to deregulate water for mining companies.
Very serious concerns have been raised about the detrimental effects to farms, communities and the Great Barrier Reef, if mining companies no longer need licences to pull billions of litres from the ground.
The state government’s ruling LNP majority is expected to push through the legislation this week, despite even mining advocates describing the changes as rushed.
The package of measures will allow resource companies such as coal miners to expand on a water access model already enjoyed by coal seam gas operators in Queensland.
“We won't be using the principle of ecologically sustainable development as the purpose of the Water Act in the future,” said Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps.
“But what we will be doing is using the purpose of the Water Act for the productive and responsible use of water resources which balances the competing interests across the use of water resources in Queensland.”
It comes just a few months after the Queensland Government assured the UN’s environmental arm, UNESCO, that all development approvals that could relate to the Great Barrier Reef would be made on the basis of ecological sustainability.
Reports say 82 new clauses were added to a 427-page water reform bill this week, though none were made public and the Labor opposition claims not to have been given a hard copy.
It has lined the Newman Government up for criticism by once again introducing late amendments to important natural resources legislation.
A former head of the Queensland Government's Water Allocation and Planning group said the bill was aimed squarely at helping the coal industry.
“The four mines that have been approved already will take potentially up to 1,770 gigalitres of water, that is over three-and-a-half Sydney Harbours, during their life,” Tim Crothers told the ABC.
“These are all bits of legislation aiding the big end of town – the mining industry. And what happens is the little guy suffers, the landholders suffers.
“The minister is proposing to grant more water to miners up on the Cape out of the Great Artesian Basin, to grant more water to Toowoomba. But he's also proposing to do a Cooper Basin plan which will potentially take more water out of the Great Artesian Basin as well.”
Even Queensland Resources Council, which represents the coal industry, said that while it backed the broad goal of the policy, the bill as it stands was an “ambitious, complex and substantial piece of legislation”.
The lobby warned that “proceeding on the current accelerated timeline is to accept a second-best policy development process”.
Mr Cripps pointed to "make-good" provisions in the bill, which introduce statutory protections for landholders who lost water.
The provisions mirror those imposed on coal seam gas extraction, but many landholders already say that the CSG laws are not enforced enough.
It is unclear when the bill will be voted on, but it is expected to be shuffled through this week.