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Media Release: Acland decision shows need for legislative change to protect groundwater

10 September, 2019

Today’s Court of Appeal decision, which found the Land Court does not have jurisdiction to consider groundwater quantity impacts when hearing mining objections, highlights the need for urgent legislative change to ensure farmers and community members can access the justice system to protect the water that underpins their land and their livelihoods.

The decision is expected to effectively invalidate the historic 2017 Land Court hearing involving our client the Oakey Coal Action Alliance, which ran for 100 days and resulted in a recommendation to refuse Stage Three of the New Acland coal mine.

That case is now expected to be re-heard in its entirety, although today’s decision means the Land Court will not be able to consider the mine’s impact on the precious groundwater that supplies the prime agricultural land of the region as part of evaluating the positive and negative impacts of the proposal.

EDO Qld CEO and Solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg said:

“This is a disappointing result for the local farmers who are seeking to protect their land and their livelihoods at a time of severe drought and fire risk.

The land around Acland on the Darling Downs is among the best 1.5% of agricultural land in Queensland, and this mine puts the groundwater that supplies that land at risk.”

“Now the Court of Appeal has found the Land Court has no jurisdiction to consider groundwater impacts, the community may need to return to court without the ability to argue this critical issue in relation to the mining lease.

“This shows the urgent need for legislative change to clarify the law and ensure groundwater impacts can be properly considered in all mining objections as part of evaluating the costs and benefits.

“This is a crucial issue for farming communities. Without legislative change to cover all mining proposals, Queensland farmers will be left with one hand tied behind their back in the battle to protect their land for their families and future generations of agriculturalists.”

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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