Last Updated: April 21, 2017

What’s Happening

Update: Adani Carmichael mine and rail project

19 April 2017

Water licences

Adani was granted their associated water licence and surface water licence for the Carmichael Mine on 29 March 2017. Read more here….

Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund

The Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) is considering an application for a $1 billion dollar loan of public money to an Adani subsidiary for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. Read more here about the approvals process…

Does the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Act 2016 (The NAIF Act) or relevant policy provide any measures to address conflicts of interest? Read more here…

Outstanding approvals 

Adani still lack a number of essential approvals, and to satisfy conditions of other approvals, before they can begin construction.

According to the Australian Financial Review on 7 April 2014 the outstanding approvals include those needed for the mine camp, airstrip and telecommunications operations. There are also approvals still needed for the railway at the state level, including for a quarry, vegetation clearing and a camp.

Court challenges

The challenge to Adani’s Federal environmental approval was heard in March and we are awaiting a decision.  Read more here about Australian Conservation Foundation v the Minister for the Environment.

Abbot Point Coal Terminal

Investigations are underway by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection at Abbot Point Coal Terminal where coal has been discovered in the Caley Valley Wetlands. Adani is an operator at Abbot Point Coal Terminal, from which coal from the Carmichael mine is intended to be exported.

Adani was reportedly granted a temporary emissions licence to manage water on the terminal site during Cyclone Debbie. The impacts to the wetlands were noticed via satellite imagery after Cyclone Debbie passed through. What’s the legal situation? Read more here….

EDO Qld sets the record straight in Townsville Bulletin with letter to the Editor.

18 April 2017

Letter to the Editor, Townsville Bulletin

Clear air on EDO Qld’s worthy environmental work

I WANT to draw readers’ attention to inaccuracies and omissions in the article “Green group responsible for Adani legal challenges granted $600,000 by State Government” (April 8).

The information provided in the interview with your newspaper did not reflect the facts as they were clearly provided and outlined.

Firstly, EDO Qld is not an activist group but a respected long standing non-profit community legal centre providing professional legal advice on environmental matters to farmers, conservationists and community members. This allows those clients to access the courts and to access justice that may otherwise be denied them.

Secondly, no group gets $600,000 as the headline claimed. There are two separate community legal centre EDOs. EDO of Northern Queensland is an entirely separate organisation based in Cairns that receives $300,000 of that amount spread over three years.

Thirdly, EDO Qld is strictly nonparty political, and has policies on our website that make that plain. Why didn’t the author do that basic research and refer to those policies or even seek comment when speaking with us?

Finally, there was no mention of the current work EDO Qld lawyers are doing to represent the Toowoomba community in the New Acland Stage 3 case.

This is work which will allow more than 60 landholders, farmers and locals to contest the allocation, use and impacts on groundwater by the proposed New Acland Coal Mine in the court.

VIKKI McLEOD, Secretary, Environmental Defenders Office (Qld) Inc.

Abbot Point, coal & Caley Valley Wetlands: what’s the legal situation?

11 April 2017

Environmental regulation of T1 coal terminal

You may have seen news reports of what looks like spillage from the Abbot Point coal terminal into the Caley Valley Wetlands in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie. What Environmental regulation applies to the T1 coal terminal?

  • Abbot Point Bulk Coal Pty Ltd (APBC) were required to obtain an environmental authority (EA) under the under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EP Act) to conduct the environmentally relevant activities (ERAs) of bulk material handling (ERA 50-(1a)) and sewage treatment (ERA 63(1)(b)(i)) on land adjacent to the Caley Valley Wetlands at Abbot Point. Abbot Point Bulk Coal Pty Ltd (APBC) currently holds an environmental authority for the T1 coal terminal at Abbot Point.
  • Under the EP Act it is an offence to unlawfully cause serious or material environmental harm.However, an act causing environmental harm won’t be ‘unlawful’ if it is authorised under an environmental authority (EA).
  • APBC’s EA for coal stockpiling only permits discharges to waters at two locations if it meets certain water quality criteria including, for example, that suspended solids are below 30mg/L.
  • It is an offence to contravene a condition of an environmental authority.
  • APBC obtained a temporary emissions licence (TEL) to increase the release limits for total suspended solids from 30 mg/L to 100 mg/L during a 4 day period from 27 March 2017 to 30 March 2017 at two locations.
  • It is an offence to contravene a condition of a TEL.
  • It is also an offence to place a contaminant where serious or material environmental harm may be caused.

Want to know more? Click here for more detailed information with footnotes and links.

Great Artesian Basin draft Water Plan instruments – out for comment until 17 April

4 April 2017

The Great Artesian Basin (GAB) is a significant source of water for more than 80 regional Queensland towns, along with countless ecosystems, springs, and sacred Indigenous cultural heritage sites. Seventy percent of the GAB exists in Queensland’s jurisdiction; we therefore have a duty to ensure that our management of this important resource is of the highest calibre.

A water plan establishes the requirements which apply to the allocation and management of water throughout the plan area. The current  Water Resource (Great Artesian Basin) Plan 2006 expires on 1 September 2017, and is therefore being replaced by the new water plan, once finalised.

Right now, public comments are being sought on three draft Great Artesian Basin water management instruments:

A map is also available of the proposed new plan area for the GAB here and supporting documents, which include a number of factsheets, hydrogeological assessments and reviews and reports.

We recommend interested readers start with the Statement of intent, which provides a plain English version of the above documents, how these instruments were developed, the intent of the new provisions and how they differ from the current arrangements. A form is also included in the Statement of Intent from page 45 to guide submissions.

We note the following*:

  • Terms such as ‘Management Areas’ and ‘Management Units’ are to be replaced with ‘Groundwater Units’ and ‘Groundwater Sub-Areas’.
  • The current 25 Management Areas and 95 Management Units are to be replaced with 16 Groundwater Units and 39 Groundwater Sub-areas. These Groundwater Units and Groundwater Sub-Areas are spatially much larger than the previous Management Areas and Management Units.
  • There is no mention of protection or monitoring of water quality provided in the plan. Petroleum and gas activities, such as coal seam gas and deep gas fracking activities, risk contamination of GAB water – these impacts must be monitored and sought to be avoided. What is the point of a water plan if it does not protect both the quantity and quality of the water resource?
  • More attention is needed on requirements to monitor impacts to the GAB under the new plan. One significant gap in the plan is the lack of reference to the monitoring and reporting of GAB water taken by the petroleum, gas and mining industry as ‘associated’ groundwater under their statutory rights. While the Department assures us verbally that water taken under the statutory right is taken into account in the plan, this is not a requirement under the legislation or Plan instruments, and is not undertaken in a transparent, accountable manner and therefore risks jeopardising the reliability and effectiveness of the plan. If the Plan does not take into account all water impacts to the GAB, it may become inaccurate and therefore risk the rights of other water users and the sustainability of GAB dependent ecosystems and cultural heritage sites.
  • A new initiative has been introduced to encourage the capping and piping of the many uncontrolled GAB bores, whereby landholders can apply for a licence for a certain percentage of the volume of water saved if they cap or pipe an uncontrolled bore. This is a good initiative in helping to reduce the significant levels of GAB water lost through uncontrolled bores, however it must be enforced closely by the Department to ensure it is effective in actually reducing the amount of water taken from the GAB from these uncontrolled bores.

*Thank you to Tom Crothers, Stellar Advisory Services, who assisted in our review of the draft GAB instruments.

Submissions must be made to the Chief Executive and received by 5pm, Monday 17 April 2017.

Submissions must be sent to one of the following:

Post:

Chief Executive
Attention: Diana Ly
Department of Natural Resources and Mines
PO Box 15216
City East QLD 4002

EmailwrpGreatArtesianBasin@dnrm.qld.gov.au
Online: www.getinvolved.qld.gov.au

Interim Koala Expert Report released – not sufficient protection for koalas yet

4 April 2017

On 10 March 2017, the Koala Expert Panel provided their Interim Report.

The Koala Expert Panel was set up in late 2015 by Minister Miles through the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection with the purpose of providing ‘expert advice on the most appropriate and realistic actions to reverse the decline in koala population sizes and ensure the long-term persistence of koala populations in the wild within south east Queensland’.

The creation of the Panel was spurred by the findings by the Uniquest report ‘South East Queensland Koala Population Study’ which demonstrated significant declines in koala populations in the Koala Coast area (80%) and Pine Rivers (54%) between 1996 and 2014.

The Koala Expert Panel consists of the following people:

  • Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes from the University of Queensland
  • Dr Alistair Melzer from the Central Queensland University’s Koala Research Centre
  • Mr Al Mucci, Director, Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation.
  • Ms Antra Hood, Partner, Minter Ellison.

Outcomes of the Interim Report

The Interim Report is intended to identify the key issues which have been threatening koala populations, including mapping and monitoring, planning laws, strategic policy settings and the management of threats. Failures are reported in the following areas:

  1. ‘Overarching policy and management issues include: lack of a strategic regional vision; an over-reliance on the planning regulation as the sole solution; inadequate resources for management of existing threats and recovery.
  2. Planning issues include: existing planning and vegetation management legislation is only capable, at best, of slowing habitat loss and impacts on koala populations; the complexity of the regulatory framework; inability of the legislation to address cumulative impacts; the SPRP being too limited in scope; and problematic implementation of the offsets framework.
  3. Mapping, monitoring and research issues include: existing habitat mapping is inadequate and inconsistent; monitoring and evaluation is inadequate; there is lack of understanding of the distribution and dynamics of rural koala populations and their habitat.
  4. Governance issues include: inadequate coordination; limited acknowledgment of variation in institutional arrangements and koala conservation needs across SEQ; regulation, education and extension has failed to modify community and institutional behaviour’ (Interim Report p4);

The Expert Panel were first tasked with reviewing and reporting on a number of immediate actions development by the Queensland Government before the Panel was established, being:

  • a habitat mapping project with the aim of improving koala habitat mapping in SEQ;
  • a revised ongoing monitoring program; and
  • the creation of two koala precincts in SEQ.

The Interim Report provides the recommendations of the Panel, which broadly support these initiatives, however making additional recommendations. One recommendation includes the creation of Koala Conservation Landscapes at a landscape scale (e.g. thousands of hectares) that include legislative protections and direct reduction of threats, rather than koala ‘precincts’, which are considered smaller areas less able to ensure the long term persistence of the koala in South East Queensland.

More work needed by the Expert Panel for this process to be fruitful

EDO Qld is concerned that the process being undertaken by the government is not sufficiently strong to bring about strong protections for our koala populations. For example, a moratorium on the clearing of koala populations in South East Queensland would assist in ensuring what little koala habitat that remains is protected while the Expert Panel and the Department finalise their work, particularly in improving the mapping.

The work of the Expert Panel is regrettably not occurring at a pace such that it can feed usefully into the current planning reform process, including particularly the draft State Planning Policy, draft State Development Assessment Provisions and draft South East Queensland Regional Plan. The Panel acknowledges in the Interim Report that the timing of their work does not coincide with the public consultation already undertaken for the new draft State Planning Policy and draft South East Queensland Regional Plan.  The Report states that the Panel has focused their comments on the planning framework that is already in place; stating ‘broader comments about the suitability of this [new planning] framework will therefore form part of the Panel’s final report, rather than being contained within the specific comments on the existing SEQRP and the SPP frameworks that will be provided in February 2017.

Also, as the report acknowledges but does not yet address, the failings of the environmental offsets framework must be addressed by the Expert Panel through clear recommendations for the strengthening in the reliability and transparency from assessment to outcomes of offsets allowed through this framework. Much of our environment and planning assessment and approval system in Queensland now relies on the functioning of the environmental offsets framework, which includes the ability to offset impacts to koalas. This framework therefore must be greatly improved to ensure beneficial results for koalas.

The final report is due by 30 June 2017.

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