Protecting Water Sources: Pastoralists say floodplains are rivers too

Published: October 24, 2014

Graziers in south-western Queensland have used National Water Week to repeat their call that protection of the Channel Country's Wild Rivers be re-instated.

"Water is the lifeblood, absolutely essential to survival in the arid "boom and bust" ecology of the Channel Country and the desert catchments of Lake Eyre,” said Dr Bob Morrish of the Cooper's Creek Protection Group.

“We fought long and hard for the protection of these desert rivers because they underpin our lives and livelihoods. And the community's efforts were rewarded with the prestigious 2014 RiverPrize.

“The significance of that award lies in the fact that we were recognised for our work in protecting a river system that remains in good condition.

“The other contenders are working to restore river systems that have been damaged by human interference,” Dr Morrish said.

Dr Morrish said that Minister Andrew Cripps' promise to replace the Channel Country Wild Rivers' declaration with a greater level of protection was “completely hollow” and his proposed amendments to the Queensland Water Act as “taking good public policy back at least 20 years”.

“There is no doubt that his suite of recent amendments is aimed at giving the unconventional gas industry carte blanche and unfettered access to our most precious resource.

“The prospect of a full blown shale gas industry on the Channel Country's floodplains is an enormous concern, especially for the beef industry out here.

“There is no way a clean and green beef industry could co-exist with an industrial gas-field out here in the long-term.[1]   

“Without restrictions on gaswells on the floodplains, there will be absolutely no way to prevent gas industry pollutants from reaching the rivers and contaminating downstream environments.

“The burden of proof in any meat contamination incident would almost certainly fall on producers. We could be liable for any harm incurred by consumers.  It'd be a legal minefield.

“It is imperative that the Channel Country's rivers and floodplains remain frack-free,” Dr Morrish concluded.

[1]           There are numerous potential  pathways for livestock to be contaminated by unconventional gas  activities. These include  direct contamination from spills, leaks or well failure;  direct access to chemical drums discarded on-site; airborne contamination from a range of chemicals including carcinogenic volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; and accidents arising from overflows and flood events.

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