Cattle access piped water in the Lake Eyre Basin.Picture: Angus Emmott
Cattle access piped water in the Lake Eyre Basin.Picture: Angus Emmott

Ag Force: ‘genuine’ consultation needed on Lake Eyre Plan

DISAPPOINTED with the Queensland Government’s consultation on the Lake Eyre Basin plan, and an apparent lack of information on its details, AgForce is going out on their own to hear the views of landholders in the Blackall, Tambo and Quilpie areas.

The industry body is seeking to consult with communities and industries within the half-million square kilometres of the Lake Eyre catchment in Queensland, claiming they have not been properly included in the government’s process, or given adequate information.

“This plan – being designed to preserve a unique and important ecosystem – will have massive implications for almost a third of Queensland,” AgForce Stand Up for Regional Queensland program manager Andrew Freeman said.

“But more concerning is that we don’t even know what we are supposed to be commenting on, because the Government has released virtually no details about their proposal.”

In late December, Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch announced the state government would undertake consultation on effective protections for the Lake Eyre Basin, but few details have been publicly released since.

The department has confirmed it has been running consultations with unspecified stakeholders, but it has put the onus on the groups to include the general public in their submissions.

“The Department of Environment and Science has invited stakeholders to make submissions and it is expected these stakeholders will liaise with and represent interested members of the public in their submissions,” a DES spokesman said.

“DES requested feedback by January 24, 2020, but informed stakeholders that additional time can be granted if necessary.

“DES has also undertaken some targeted consultation throughout 2018 and 2019 with First Nations groups, the scientific community, the conservation sector, and local governments through the Remote Area Planning and Development Board.”

What is changing?

According to the DES annual report for 2018-19, the state government has committed to a review of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014, looking in to its protections of Queensland’s pristine rivers.

“The Queensland Government has an election commitment to ‘Work with traditional owners, stakeholders and communities to ensure the State’s pristine rivers are protected,” a DES spokesman said.

“DES is now consulting with key stakeholders to ensure the most effective and appropriate protections for the Lake Eyre Basin.

“It is essential to achieve a balance between the long-term health of the rivers and floodplains, and the cultural, social and economic priorities of the region.”

While limited details have been made public, a consultation briefing on future management of the Lake Eyre Basin, seen by the Western Times, outlines that Strategic Environmental Areas are to be expanded under a new plan, and more resource exploration and mining would also be allowed.

The Strategic Environmental Area of the basin will be expanded to cover the Cooper, Diamantina and Georgina catchments, meaning some activities will be heavily regulated or banned in those areas.

In the Strategic Environmental Area, dams for domestic use, grazing stock, and travelling stock will be regulated by the state government under the Regional Planning Interests Act, but considered as ‘acceptable uses’.

Broadacre cropping of grains, pulses and seeds will also be regulated, along with resource exploration and petroleum and gas activities, but all are considered ‘acceptable uses’.

Mining will be added to the list of acceptable uses, with the exception of open-cut mining.

The response so far

The proposed plan hasn’t impressed Queensland members of Katter’s Australian Party, with state leader Robbie Katter calling the plan a “misguided move”.

“There is nothing to stop the State Government right now adjudicating on any development, mining or otherwise, that is inappropriate in an area or detrimental to the environment,” Mr Katter said.

“This is regulation for regulation sake.”

As a party, the KAP has called for the state government to make the Lake Eyre Basin Management Plan proposal available to the public, and to extend the time frame allowed for consultation.

With the submission deadline looming, AgForce is seeking to meet with anyone in the basin area for a public forum in late January to early February.

“Whether you are a producer, a local business owner, a mine worker, a truckie, or a council worker, the State Government’s LEB proposal will likely impact on you and your family,” Mr Freeman said.

“It could well lead to huge tracts of inland Queensland being needlessly limited in terms of agricultural resource development opportunities.

“The Government isn’t going to give you the opportunity to have a say in what happens to your community, your family, so we will.

“Whether or not you are an AgForce member, come along to one of our free workshops to find out what the Government is proposing and how it may affect you.

“We want to find out from you what your vision is for this unique region, what environmental values you feel need to be protected, and what economic and employment opportunities you want to see.

“We encourage everyone who lives and works in this vast part of Queensland to share with us their hopes, concerns and vision for the future of this important natural wonder.

“We realise that there are many and varied views on the issue and encourage everyone to be honest, thoughtful and respectful when expressing theirs.

“We will then pass your feedback on to the State Government as part of our submission.”

AgForce wil be holding consultation workshops across the west, including:

  • Windorah and Eromanga - Friday, January 31
  • Quilpie - Saturday, February 1
  • Thargomindah - Sunday, February 2
  • Blackall - Monday, February 3
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