Sensible water reforms squeeze through challenging Queensland Parliament

MEDIA RELEASE 10 November, 2016

The peak state body for conservation groups, the Queensland Conservation Council, has welcomed the passing of water reform legislation in state Parliament overnight, while noting ongoing concerns about how major mining projects will be granted access to water.

Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles has helped lead the passage of a Bill amending the Newman LNP government’s water legislation which stripped out references to Ecologically Sustainable Development from the Water Act, and which granted exclusive water options for massive irrigation projects which would have blocked access to water by smaller scale farmers.

Minister Miles has also negotiated a second Bill through the hung Parliament which constrains some aspects of the LNP legislation granting of water rights to resource mining companies.

“Given the difficulties in getting any environmental legislation through Queensland Parliament, the passage of these water reform Bills is the best possible outcome we could have realistically expected”, said Queensland Conservation Council head Dr Tim Seelig.

“The reinstatement of Ecologically Sustainable Development principles back into parts of the Water Act, the scrapping of outrageous exclusive water development options, and the proper regulation of watercourses are all really important environmental law achievements.

“Although the outcome has not addressed the problem of giving new mining projects water rights without a water licence, it has created interim water access processes for mine projects which already have some or all other approvals in place.

“We believe that for major mining projects that are already well-advanced, the new laws passed will allow for some level of policy and legal scrutiny of water licencing processes.

“We would have preferred much stronger rules and greater appeals processes but we acknowledge how difficult it is now to get any environmental protection legislation through the Queensland Parliament with the current mix of parties, independents and vocal MPs.

“We look forward to a situation in a future Parliament where new mining projects are brought back under a water licencing regime with full appeal rights.

“Whether through licencing or other processes, mining companies should be required to demonstrate that their projects are environmentally sustainable including on water access, and where they are not, they should be knocked back.

“We urge the government to use the powers it now has to properly test the ecological sustainability of advanced mining proposals, and to ensure proper scrutiny and capacity to challenge decisions where environmental destruction is proposed”.

The Queensland Conservation Council recently sent a letter, signed by a wide range of organisations and individuals, to Premier Palaszczuk expressing dismay at her government’s decision to fast-track the controversial Adani Carmichael coal mine. The letter can be viewed here. 

For further information or comment contact:
Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator Dr Tim Seelig on 0439 201 183

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