Newman govt seeks to axe Wild Rivers Act

THE Queensland government is planning to wind back the former Labor government’s Wild Rivers legislation to allow oil and gas exploration in the Channel Country region.
Newman govt seeks to axe Wild Rivers Act Newman govt seeks to axe Wild Rivers Act Newman govt seeks to axe Wild Rivers Act Newman govt seeks to axe Wild Rivers Act Newman govt seeks to axe Wild Rivers Act

Queensland premier Campbell Newman

James McGrath

The legislation cuts off the region from industrial activity that may be perceived to be a threat to the water from the Cooper, Diamantina and Georgina rivers, which run into the Lake Eyre Basin.

However, the Newman government is keen to soften the law to allow oil and gas exploration in the region.

In response to heavy criticism of the move, state Resources Minister Andrew Cripps said it was ruling out any cotton growing or open cut mining in the area.

In addition, oil and gas exploration work would be subject to higher environmental standards than regular activities.

“Open cut mining will not be allowed in the Channel Country and oil and gas development will be strictly controlled under strengthened conditions to be contained in the Environmental Protection Act,” Cripps said.

“This will mean proposed petroleum and gas developments will be subject to stronger environmental conditioning than in any other part of Queensland.”

Cripps added that the government still had a mountain of detail to work through before anything was legislated.

Queensland Resource Council chief executive Michael Roche welcomed the move.

“Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps has taken a precautionary approach to future development of the Channel Country as a result of lengthy and transparent consultations with all stakeholders,” Roche said.

“We were looking at a farcical situation where rivers have been declared ‘wild’ and off-limits to industry on the Queensland side of the border, yet open to development examination once they flowed into South Australia and on to Lake Eyre.

“As a result of the previous uncertainty, South Australia is currently capturing the lion’s share of oil and gas exploration investment in the Cooper and Eromanga basins.”

The Greens, on the other hand, weren’t so excited by the news.

"The Newman government has today ripped up protection for wild rivers in the Channel Country, opening up previously off-limits areas of western Queensland to oil and coal seam gas mining," Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters said.

"Coal seam gas mining threatens these pristine, sacred rivers with masses of salty wastewater and through contamination and depletion of the groundwater these river systems connect with.”