Pastoralists, Traditional Owners and communities in Queensland's far south-west are angry the State Government intends repealing the Wild Rivers Act to open up the Channel Country to irrigation and unconventional gas developments.
Cooper Creek Protection Group Chairman, Dr Bob Morrish said there was “overwhelming local support” for the Channel Country Wild Rivers Declaration when the Wild Rivers Act was introduced in 2005, after some initial scepticism.
“That excellent consultation process resulted in overwhelming support for the Declaration because it ensured our pristine rivers and their floodplains would continue to support the aspirations of Traditional Owners, a thriving organic beef industry and lucrative tourism ventures,” he said.
“The entire community was thoroughly engaged in the process involving 140 public meetings across the region over three years. And we absolutely supported the Wild Rivers legislation because we were confident our activities could and would continue indefinitely.”
He said locals were “bitterly disappointed” that Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Andrew Cripps would repeal the Act in the next sitting of parliament.
“We are furious that local stakeholders have not been consulted at all about the planned changes,” Dr Morrish said.
The repeal of the Wild Rivers Act and amendments to other legislation was because of lobbying from narrow corporate interests including the oil and gas company, Santos that holds extensive shale gas exploration tenements in the Channel Country, he said.
The Wild Rivers Act would be replaced with much weaker regulations including changes to mapping that were “unaccountable.”
“Minister Cripps has taken democratic ideals of transparency and accountability to new lows. This mapping will only exist on a government website. It could be changed at any time and without any notice whatsoever being given to local stakeholders.
“Given the LNP government's track record to date, we have zero confidence in Minister Cripps' so- called “alternative strategies” to protect the lifeblood of our region.”