Concerns voiced over water reforms

Concerns voiced over water reforms


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Former senior water planner in the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mining department Tom Crothers .

Former senior water planner in the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mining department Tom Crothers .

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CONTROVERSIAL changes to mining legislation put forward by the Newman government last year are set to have life breathed into them this week.

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CONTROVERSIAL changes to mining legislation put forward by the Newman government last year are set to have life breathed into them this week.

The Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill was passed in September last year, however the Palaszczuk government halted this in February with a motion of disallowance.

Member for Hinchenbrook and former Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps will be seeking to have this reversed on September 17.

"The three key things were the reduction of red tape, streamlining the review of the ground water resource plan and providing consistency for ground water treatment by the resources sector," he said.

Mr Cripps said ground water was managed differently for coal and hard rock mining, compared with the petroleum and gas industry, and this legislation would bring consistency.

Former senior water planner in the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mining department Tom Crothers is alarmed at the proposed bill.

"The Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment (WROLA) Bill was pushed through the house by the Newman Government in November, and it proposed to give miners a statutory right to take underground water without getting approvals through the Water Act," he said.

Mr Crothers said he had not seen much will from the Palaszczuk government to change much of the WROLA Act, and he questioned why one particular sector could be granted a statutory right to underground water, while not landholders and irrigators were not.

"If the new provision comes in, landholders will be forced to sit there and watch their water supplies dwindle through the dewatering operations of miners and be required to accept what make-provisions the miners offer them for these impacts."

At the moment, landholders were required to prove whether their groundwater and supply would be impacted, and this was inequitable, he said.

"Many of them don't have the financial capacity or money to employ consultants to help them prove this," Mr Crothers said.

A number of people have written to State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham, requesting to have this statutory right for miners to underground water removed and to improve make-good agreements.

"Dr Lynham has stated that the mines are sustainable. With groundwater extraction of around 2000GL, that is very questionable.

"As the Queensland government still hasn't developed a regional groundwater hydrology model to test the cumulative impacts of these mines, Dr Lynham wouldn't know if they were sustainable or not," Mr Crothers said.

Mr Crothers, who was general manger of water allocation and planning for the Queensland government, said none of the successive governments had ensured landholders were treated fairly or equitably when it came to mining.

"Part of my major focus has been on the inequitable make-good framework - it does not put landholders on a level playing field."

Mr Crothers, who also spoke at the Property Rights Australia annual conference recently, said agricultural industry bodies had been very silent on the WROLA Act provisions.

"At the PRA conference there was a fair bit of disgust about the lack of representation and lack of questioning by AgForce and QFF on these provisions.

"I understand AgForce has lost a lot of membership over this lack of representation of its consistency."

An AgForce spokesperson said members did not support all of the provisions within the WROLA Bill and "we continue to lobby the current state government on the reforms under consideration and on further needed improvements to the make good framework".

"In line with AgForce's submission, the Parliamentary Committee did subsequently recommend to the Government that it universally require the preparation of impact reports as the basis for the introduction of make good agreements, however this was not accepted by the former government."

Mr Cripps said that while the petroleum and gas industry currently had a right to all water in its lease, he was requiring them to have a licence to secure water not associated with a coal seam.

If he is successful in his bid for a disallowance motion, the government's proclamation will be invalid and the bill will be introduced.

"The proposal that was passed through Parliament last year...bestows rights on landholders that weren't there before."

Make-good protections would be given to landholders who had groundwater potentially affected, and this was an issue brought up in the Land Court during the GVK case, Mr Cripps said.

The Water Regulation of 2002 was outdated and didn't take into consideration what was happening in Queensland, he added.

"You can have a situation where there are overlapping tenures with coal and gas - one would have a responsibility to make-good agreements and no water licence, while the other had a water licence and no responsibility for a make-good agreement."

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