THE consultation process surrounding proposed changes to the Lake Eyre Basin management plan has been put on hold indefinitely amid the coronavirus crisis.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the government had coordinated targeted consultation with key stakeholders between December 2019 to February 2020.
These included conservation, agricultural, resources, local government sectors, and local representatives.
AgForce also held a series of forums in affected areas in February before the coronavirus took hold and compiled a document to present to the government in the hope it would guide policy.
Details of the proposed changes are scant, through it is understood that environmental safeguards may be expanded to include the Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper catchments in Queensland.
It is feared the move will lock up vast tracts of prime mining and agricultural land, stifling growth and economic opportunities in remote communities.
Ms Enoch said feedback had been received from the Lake Eyre Basin Traditional Owner Alliance, Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD), South West Regional Economic Development, OBE Organic, Quilpie Shire Council, Flinders Shire Council, Boulia Shire Council and some local residents.
"Due to the current health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on normal operations for stakeholders and government departments, consultation has been suspended indefinitely," Ms Enoch said.
"Any decision to recommence consultation will be mindful of the current health and economic challenges."
The suspension of the consultation process prompted three anti-mining lobby groups to write to the state government demanding all new fracking approvals on the rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin be put on hold.
Lock the Gate, Environmental Defenders Office and Western Rivers Alliance said approvals should be deferred until the public consultation process was complete and permanent protection measures were in place.
"We recognise that COVID is understandably impacting timeframes for introducing better protection to the Channel Country but the environment and the communities of the region shouldn't have to pay for that," Western Rivers Alliance spokesman Riley Rocco said.
"Placing a moratorium on all new gas mining activities on the rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin will demonstrate to communities, Traditional Owners, industry stakeholders and the public that the Palaszczuk Government is committed to addressing concerns over the future management of this globally significant river system."
However, a Department of Environment and Science spokesman said current protection measures would remain during the consultation process.
"Applicants proposing new or expanded resource or regulated activities in the Channel Country Strategic Environmental Area continue to be subject to the requirements of the current planning and regulatory framework," he said.
"This requires the applicant obtain a regional interests development approval under the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014, which is assessed under the Regional Planning Interests Regulation 2014, in addition to the requirements of resource tenure and environmental authority.
"The Queensland Government is committed to working with traditional owners, stakeholders and communities to achieve a balance between the long-term of rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin and the cultural, social and economic priorities of the region."
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