Summary

Early signs of the Government’s replacement framework for the Wild River’s legislation indicate that little will change under the new regime. Mining and petroleum activities within defined areas will either be prohibited, or heavily controlled. However, the overall area of restrictions may be increased.

The announcements, made by Government on 1 August 2013, were in response to a report by the Western Rivers Advisory Panel (WRAP) released on 2 July 2013.

The panel (consisting of various interest groups including mining) was asked to report on ‘alternative strategies’ for protecting these important Queensland river systems.

The resources sector, represented by the Queensland Resources Council, strongly opposed the development of a new law as it argued this approach would simply trade one Wild Rivers’ regime for another, however labelled.

Current announcements by Government

  • Open cut mining will not be allowed in the Channel Country surrounding the Georgina and Diamantina Rivers and Cooper Creek and that petroleum development will be strictly controlled in these areas under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld).
  • This will mean that proposed petroleum developments will be subject to stronger environmental conditioning than in any other part of Queensland;
  • A special “Channel Country Protection Area” will be created which will protect a greater area of channels and flood plains than the existing Wild Rivers legislation; and
  • No cotton will be grown on the Cooper Creek and no further water released for irrigation from these river systems.

Conclusion

Although the replacement regime may represent a change in ‘style’ rather than ‘substance’, resources companies should take the opportunity to continue to lobby for favourable outcomes.

Once the final details of the new law are released, proponents should also seek legal advice as to how their existing, and any future, projects may be affected.

HopgoodGanim has previously reported on the detail of the WRAP report (which is available here).