The Queensland Government today released a Report into the
future management of Queensland's Georgina, Diamantina and
Cooper Creek catchments (Western Rivers). If implemented, the
Report's recommendations will have an impact on mining and
petroleum exploration and production activities in the Cooper and
The stated purpose of the Report is to assist the Government to
develop an alternative framework for the protection of the Western
Rivers, replacing the current Wild River declarations. The Western
Rivers Advisory Panel (WRAP) was established to seek community
input into the development of "alternative strategies".
However, the Government does not propose to withdraw any current
Wild River declarations until an alternative framework is ready to
Key WRAP recommendations
The Minister is now considering a range of recommendations in
the WRAP's Report. The recommendations do not necessarily carry
the full endorsement of every WRAP member or group. For example,
the resources sector (represented on the WRAP) disagreed with
several of the recommendations.
Some of the key recommendations of the Report are outlined
below, including responses by the resources sector representative
in a supplementary report.
In relation to mining activities
Mining should be prohibited in floodplains, major rivers,
major tributaries and lakes.
The resources sector argued there is an existing system of
impact assessment and conditioning that should determine the limits
of operations and how they are to be conducted, rather than
imposing blanket provisions.
Open cut mining should be prohibited in "key sensitive
areas" with stronger requirements applicable to other
Again, the resources sector argued that the existing system of
assessment is appropriate.
The State Coordinator-General should not have powers to
override any alternative strategies for the protection of the
natural assets and values of the Lake Eyre Basin.
The resources sector disagreed on the basis that this would
restrict the capacity of future generations to make decisions about
development or conservation outcomes.
The Great Artesian Basin recharge areas should be protected
from the cumulative effects of mining.
Mining activity should not be authorised if it has the
potential to reduce or interfere with natural flows.
Mining requirements must include no interference of flows
to major rivers, major tributaries and floodplains.
The resource sector disagreed and argued that mining of
floodplains should still occur where there was no impact. The
resources sector also argued that this was too broad a
recommendation and depended on the definition of
In relation to petroleum and gas activities
The use of a "risk based approach" instead of the
current "adaptive management approach" being used to
manage petroleum and gas operations.
The resources sector argued that both approaches should be
preserved, rather than picking one over the other.
The natural flows must not be impacted by petroleum and gas
That petroleum and gas development requirements must
include no pollution of the river systems and no contamination of
the groundwater systems.
That Coal Seam Gas (CSG) water monitoring requirements must
be standardised and transparent.
The resources sector argued that this is already the case.
The majority of WRAP members also supported a moratorium being
placed on petroleum and gas development where there is insufficient
understanding of industry impact and the imposition of a minimum
two kilometre buffer zone around rivers and floodplains. Both these
views were rejected by the resources sector.
How the alternative framework is proposed to be
One of the recommendations of the WRAP was that the Government
consider either introducing an amendment to the Water Act 2000
or the Environmental Protection Act 1994, or introduce an
entirely new law complementary to and consistent with the Lake Eyre
The resource sector strongly opposed the development of a new
law as it was argued that this simply trades one Wild Rivers Act
for another, however named.
The Minister is now expected to consider the Report's
recommendations and develop an alternative strategy for protecting
and managing the Western Rivers. This has the potential to greatly
impact any current or planned mining or petroleum activities within
A copy of the WRAP Report (including the resources sector
supplementary report) is available at: www.dnrm.qld.gov.au.
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