Submission: Queensland Resource Industry Development Plan must prioritise protection for Lake Eyre Basin waterways

It is important that the Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan (QRIDP) clearly demonstrates that future resource developments will not compromise our state’s most precious natural and cultural assets, including the rivers, wetlands and floodplains of the Channel Country. The QRIDP should stipulate how the Government will ensure ecological values are not compromised by resource activity: the QRIDP must be clear that there are places such as the Channel Country where environmental and cultural values outweigh the benefits of resource extraction.

The QRIDP must be clear that fragile ecosystems like the waterways of the Channel Country in the Lake Eyre Basin are off limits to all mining activities, including oil and gas, due to their impact on environmental, cultural and agricultural values. This will deliver clarity and certainty to both the resource industry and to the communities with a stake in the environmental, social, cultural and economic health of Western Queensland.

The Lake Eyre Basin’s rivers are among the last free flowing desert rivers on earth, supporting an abundance of wildlife, a highly productive beef industry and important Indigenous cultural values. There is broad community and stakeholder support for protecting the rivers and floodplains of the Channel Country, including local pastoralists, Traditional Owners, scientists and conservationists.

Growing interest in shale and other unconventional oil and gas mining in the Channel Country is putting our desert rivers under threat. Unconventional gas fields would create a web of disturbance consisting of many wells, roads and pipelines. On the flat Channel Country floodplains even low above-ground structures can cause major changes in overland flows. Further, the risk of soil and water contamination is a serious threat to the Channel Country’s critical wildlife habitat and its ‘clean and green’ and organic beef industries.

I am concerned that, if the QRIDP promotes the growth of the resource sector at the expense of environmental values, this will extend mining for unconventional oil and gas resources on the river and floodplain areas of the Lake Eyre Basin. Ensuring legislative protection against ecological threats, such as activities associated with unconventional gas on Channel Country rivers and floodplains, should be a priority of the Queensland Government.   

Unconventional gas mining across the floodplains presents an unacceptable risk to the health of the waterways of the Lake Eyre Basin and all activities associated with new petroleum and gas exploration and mining should be clearly prohibited. Without such clear prohibitions, the Queensland Government will fail to meet their commitment to protect the rivers and floodplains of the Channel Country. 

In order to maintain confidence in the Palaszczuk Government's election commitments, I recommend that the Queensland Resource Industry Development Plan clearly states that the rivers and floodplain areas of the Lake Eyre Basin in Queensland will not be available for resource extraction - including oil and gas drilling.