Lock the Gate Alliance congratulates the Queensland Palaszczuk Government for releasing a long awaited consultation plan for the Lake Eyre Basin that includes an option for effectively banning new oil and gas development on the region’s fragile floodplains.
The government today released its regulatory impact statement (RIS) with options on Channel Country protection. Oil and gas companies own huge tenements over sections of the flood plains, however wide-scale unconventional industrialisation of the region has not yet occurred. Numerous stakeholders are concerned about the threat this type of development would pose to the Lake Eyre Basin’s desert rivers.
These risks include:
Direct impact of many hundreds of gas wells and associated infrastructure such as access roads that would divert the flow of the channels that feed Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre and other wetlands in the system
Chemical spills from fracking contaminating the channels, particularly during flood events
Loss of organic certification for graziers operating on the floodplains due to the presence of unconventional oil and gas extraction
The combined impact of infrastructure and any spills on the floodplains would leave the LEB less resilient to the existing and anticipated impacts of climate change, such as longer droughts and more intense rainfall events when they do occur.
The impact statement itself notes, “the gradual emergence of plans and proposals for unconventional extraction of oil and gas in the rivers or on the floodplains of the Queensland LEB presents challenges to the future health… of these sensitive areas. This is because of the associated industrialised processes including intensive hydraulic fracturing techniques, and associated requirements for substantially greater volumes of water, use of chemicals, and generation of contaminants, wastewater, and other processes. Accidents leading to pollution of the waters of Kati-Thanda Lake Eyre, and its rivers and floodplain systems, could potentially be catastrophic for nature, for people, and the economic and social prosperity of the region.”
Grazier and Lock the Gate spokesperson Nick Holliday said this was a once in a generation opportunity for the Queensland Palaszczuk Government to prioritise protections for the floodplains.
“We’re happy this consultation paper has been released, and that it contains an option for protecting this precious area from the dangers of fracking,” he said.
“The Queensland Lake Eyre Basin sustains a thriving organic beef industry and incredible ecology. The RIS shows how fracking threatens all this.
“The consultation paper highlights threats oil and gas developments pose to one of the last truly free flowing desert river systems in the world.
“If unconventional oil and gas is allowed on the floodplains, it will irreparably damage the Lake Eyre Basin.
“This Regulatory Impact Statement contains a clear pathway forward that honours Labor’s election commitments and protects these fragile rivers - that means banning new oil and gas on the floodplains.
“Under Queensland’s existing system, the oil and gas industry has been allowed to proliferate across some of Queensland’s most fertile farmland and most vital underground water sources across the Western Downs. This must not occur in the Channel Country.
“Anything less than a total ban on new oil and gas development on the floodplains would be an environmental and social catastrophe. It would trash the Lake Eyre Basin for generations to come, right at a moment when the world is finally starting to recognise the need to move away from fossil fuels such as oil and gas to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
“This area must be protected, for the sake of traditional owners, graziers and future generations of Queenslanders. Locals have been fighting for this for decades. The Palaszczuk Government has a historic opportunity to get this right and fulfil their promise to preserve the Channel Country into the future.”
The rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin in South West Queensland (known as the Channel Country) are some of the last free flowing desert rivers in the world, and are of immense significance to Traditional Owners. Their unique ecology has been globally recognised.
In 2015, the Palaszcuk Government made an election commitment to protect these rivers and floodplains. In 2022, then Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon initiated a stakeholder consultation process with graziers, Traditional Owners, the gas industry and environmentalists on options for protecting the Channel Country.
Despite this stakeholder process, oil and gas companies have been granted huge tenements over Channel Country flood plains.
In late 2021, the Queensland Government quietly granted an application by Origin Energy to frack across more than 225,000 hectares of tenements, including on the floodplains.
In October last year, a scientific report found 831 oil and gas wells across the entire Lake Eyre Basin (including in other states), and highlighted the damage they were causing to the flood plains.