Lock the Gate Alliance has accused the Queensland Palaszczuk Government of breaking a long standing election promise and conducting sham community consultation after it quietly granted Origin Energy 200,000 hectares of petroleum leases across large areas of Lake Eyre Basin flood plains.
The granting of leases enables petroleum production, which will pave the way for Origin Energy to frack for shale oil. If it proceeds, this will be the first shale oil production in Australia. Origin Energy’s petroleum licence application indicated shale oil was the company’s primary target.
Information provided by the Office of the Information Commissioner to Lock the Gate Alliance and publicly accessible on GeoResGlobe shows the Palaszczuk Government approved the leases on October 27.
Despite this, the government’s draft Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan, which was released a month later in late November, stated the government remained committed “to establishing a stakeholder advisory group to consult on how an appropriate balance of environmental and economic considerations can be achieved in Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre Basin”.
The creation of this group was the key basis of election promises made by the Palaszczuk Government in the leadup to the last three elections, where government ministers stated the rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin would be protected - and the advisory groups would determine what sort of development could occur.
Longreach grazier Angus Emmott said, “This is totally unacceptable. The government went to three elections with core promises to protect the pristine rivers and floodplains of the Queensland Channel Country. Now they’ve gone and done this.
“These are the last free flowing desert rivers on the face of the earth and we need governments with the guts to protect them.”
The approval comes despite revelations in Queensland Estimates this year that neither Origin nor the original owners of the tenements - Blue Energy - had conducted any exploration work on the leases for eight years and were in breach of their state-sanctioned work plans as a result.
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said the granting of the petroleum licences exposed the community consultation process as a sham.
“The Palaszczuk Government has very clearly broken its promise to protect the Channel Country floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin, and to meaningfully engage with the community over how development should occur there,” she said.
“Bizarrely, the government is assessing these leases under superseded legislation that is nearly 100 years old - under an Act from 1923. All this despite Queensland Government scientists having already deemed the region too sensitive for fracking.
“Communities who rely on the free flowing desert rivers of the region will suffer tremendously if Origin Energy now builds industrial-scale, polluting shale oilfields.
“Exploiting this unique and spectacular part of Queensland for shale oil will also release a carbon bomb at a time when the world desperately needs to rein in its addiction to fossil fuels to mitigate the climate crisis.”