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Law Reform · Healthy Communities

Have your say: Great Artesian Basin draft Water Plan instruments

04 April, 2017

Work is underway to replace the Water Resource (Great Artesian Basin) Plan 2006, which expires 1 September 2017. Public comments are being sought on three draft Great Artesian Basin water management instruments.

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:

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

Online: www.getinvolved.qld.gov.au

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

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