Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham’s media release claiming new laws will protect waterways and farmers’ rights is ‘simply media spin’, says water expert, Tom Crothers.
Mr Crothers, a former General Manager of Water Allocation and Planning in the Queensland Government, said the ALP had made ‘an unequivocal’ pre-election promise to protect water and farmers and it was using ‘diversionary tactics ’ to try to save face.
“Before the election, the Queensland ALP gave firm written commitments that it would ‘repeal the Newman Government’s water laws’ and promised to prevent ‘over-allocation of Queensland’s precious water resources’,” Mr Crothers said.
“It is now preparing to backflip on those promises but Dr Lynham’s media release today is trying to gloss over that fact.”
Mr Crothers said the government’s bill introduced today - the Water Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 – would only delay for a few months the introduction of the LNP’s draconian changes.
The Newman Government introduced laws in late 2014 to give miners a statutory right to take underground water. The relevant provisions were set down in Part 4 of the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (WROLAA). Although the Act passed, Part 4 has not yet been legally commenced.
“Minister Lynham admitted in the media release that the State Government would retain the proposed groundwater framework in the WROLA Act. That is bad for water resources and bad for Queensland’s landholders who are dependent on groundwater,” he said.
Minister Lynham claimed that the statutory obligations for miners to enter into Make Good Agreements would address all landholder’s concerns with bores impacted by mining operations.
“Minister Lynham fails to recognise or understand that the current Make Good Agreement framework is not delivering the goods – it’s flawed, inequitable and totally unfair on landholders,” he said.
Mr Crothers yesterday released a major report entitled, Report on Statutory Rights to Groundwater warning that providing miners with a statutory right to take water was likely to result in the ‘unsustainable take of groundwater’ and may lead to ‘total loss of water supplies’ for other water users, including farmers and graziers.
“The Queensland Government is giving up the powers which it now has to prevent miners from extracting vast quantities of water to unsustainable levels during mining operations,” he said.
“The rights of landholders to object to the granting of water licences will be lost and the role of the Land Court as a crucial independent arbiter will also be removed.
“Farmers, graziers and rural landholders have a lot to lose if the government goes down this path and effectively gives up its powers to prevent unsustainable impacts on scarce water supplies by mining companies.”
The study, Report on Statutory Rights to Groundwater, was commissioned by Lock the Gate Alliance. The Executive Summary of the report is available here. Copies of the full report are available on request.