The Queensland Government has “reallocated” underground water resources used by Western Downs’ farmers to the coal seam gas (CSG) industry, says Hopeland local, Shay Dougall.
Locals around Hopeland, near Chinchilla in the last week noticed two underground bores ‘blow out,’ spewing water and gasses into the air at private properties within a few kilometres of each other.
Mrs Dougall, spokesperson for the Hopeland Community Sustainability Group, contacted the government’s CSG Compliance Unit to get advice on the government’s intended actions regarding the blow outs.
“Basically, I was told that farmers would need to find a new water source as the CSG companies had unlimited access to the underground bores,” she said.
“Farmers have used these bores from the Walloons Coal Measures and the Springbok sandstone formations for over 100 years but now they have been basically been reallocated to CSG companies for their unfettered use.
“This is completely outrageous behaviour by the State Government that’s removing important and essential assets such as allocated access to underground water from hardworking farmers so mining companies can exploit this whole region.
“Premier Palaszczuk should be making this area a no-go zone for mining because the Hopeland area is one of Australia’s most highly productive agricultural regions and we can see that even without a single piece of infrastructure on these properties, they are already severely impacted.”
She said approximately 50 water bores are listed to be impacted and ‘make good’ agreements would be useless as they would not replace generations of lost water.
Tom Crothers, a water expert and former General Manager of Water Allocation and Planning in the Qld Government, said providing more miners with a statutory right to take water would devastate Queensland farmers.
Mr Crothers said the CSG industry already had the right to take unlimited volumes of water from Queensland’s groundwater aquifers, but the State Government’s proposed WROLA legislation would extend to coal mining.
Mr Crothers’ recent study, Report on Statutory Rights to Groundwater, said the State Government was planning to give up powers that prevented miners from extracting vast quantities of water to unsustainable levels during mining operations. The Executive Summary of the report is available here.
“The consequences will be very severe and far-reaching and mean that 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,” Mr Crothers said.
“The Qld Government should be acting urgently to put in place stronger controls to protect our precious groundwater resources from mining, not weakening them and putting farm supplies at even greater risk as a result.”
Farmers, landholders and traditional owners from every state and territory have sent a letter to Resources and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and the state ministers calling on them to give landholders the right to say ‘no’ to mining. In October, Minister Frydenberg said he'd put the issue of a farmers right to say 'no' on the agenda of the next meeting of COAG Mining and Energy Ministers, which will be held in Canberra on Friday (4 December).