New Right To Information documents and mapping analysis have revealed the Palaszczuk Labor Government has opened up swathes of fragile Channel Country floodplains in Queensland's south-west to potential shale gas fracking.
That’s despite successive Labor Party election commitments to protect the state’s pristine rivers and floodplains, and to publicly release an “independent scientific assessment” into shale gas fracking before allowing the industry to proceed in Queensland.
The mapping analysis shows since Labor was elected in 2015, gas companies have been quietly granted 738,908 hectares of special 'potential commercial areas' (PCAs) to prove commercial gas reserves over the Lake Eyre Basin.
Those PCAs have been granted over 348,066 hectares of Channel Country floodplains - which are mapped under the Qld Regional Planning Interests Act as Strategic Environmental Areas - and most of them extend for 15 years.
Similarly, the RTIs obtained reveal how the decision was made to give Santos a PCA over a floodplain for 15 years, without any mention of the government’s policy (File B, P34).
This comes after Queensland Labor announced its draft Lake Eyre Basin policy on the Friday before Christmas, which looks set to allow gas wells, pipelines, and new roads to be built on the sensitive floodplains.
“It’s devastating to learn that the Queensland Government has been quietly granting special petroleum rights over vast areas of pristine river floodplains, despite promises to protect them” said Lock the Gate Queensland spokeswoman Ellie Smith.
“We’re lucky to have some of the last free-flowing desert rivers left on earth in outback Queensland, and the fracking industry should not be let loose on them.
“If fracking is allowed to proceed to full production in the Channel Country it would have a massive impact on water resources and the organic beef industry that thrives in the region.
“What this all appears to show is the Palaszczuk Government is on the cusp of capitulating to the gas fracking lobby and backflipping on its election promises to protect the rivers of the Channel Country.
“We’re calling on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to urgently reconsider the government's approach and to protect the Channel Country rivers and floodplains from fracking for good, to properly safeguard sustainable industries like agriculture and tourism, which the region relies on.
“We’re also concerned the government is yet to release scientific panel reports into the impacts of shale gas on the Lake Eyre Basin. The public scrutiny of shale gas activities the government promised has not been undertaken."