Senate inquiry split on Bill to hand water trigger to States

Published: June 24, 2014

A Senate inquiry has failed to reach agreement about controversial legislation that will hand over Federal Government decision making power for large coal mines and coal seam gas projects that impact on water resources.

The Committee report recommended that the Bill be passed, and expressed its support for the “one stop shop” agenda of the Government, but that recommendation was rejected by half of the Committee, who produced two dissenting reports recommending that the Bill should not be passed. 

“The Federal Government has broken its promise to country Australia that it would retain the water trigger that was created to protect the productive aquifers and rivers that support farming and rural communities from permanent damage by coal and CSG mining" said Georgina Woods, spokesperson for Lock the Gate Alliance.

“The water trigger has been on the statutes for just 12 months and was introduced because of concerns that short term mining interests were being put before the long term protection of clean, safe water.

“The Bill will not repeal the water trigger, but will effectively neuter it, as it provides for all decision making to be handed to State Governments under their existing legislation.  We will be back where we started.

“The states can’t be trusted to act in the national interest to protect resources like the Murray Darling Basin, the Lake Eyre Basin or the Great Artesian Basin. These are the lifeblood of much of inland Australia.

“The Great Artesian Basin is under threat from multiple CSG developments.  We've already seen the risks of CSG activities after a shallow aquifer in north-west NSW was polluted with high levels of salt and uranium due to a leaking CSG wastewater storage pond.

“The productive food lands of the Liverpool Plains are under threat from two monster coal mines, one of which has already been recommended for approval by the NSW Department of Planning. They will draw down productive aquifers and exacerbate salinity in the Murray Darling Basin.

"We call on the Federal Government to abandon this reckless plan and maintain the water trigger and failing that, we will be urging the Senate to reject the proposed law changes” she said.

A rally will be held in Gunnedah at 9am on Thursday 26 June against the proposed Shenhua Watermark coal mine on the Liverpool Plains, ahead of a NSW Planning and Assessment Commission public hearing about the project. 

Background to the Bill is available here.

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