Queensland Debates Water Law Reform

Planning Assessment Commission’s Consent for Underground Mine Supported by the NSW Land and Environment Court
September 20, 2016
WA Energy Regulation Reform Introduced
September 28, 2016

Queensland Debates Water Law Reform

Water (Local Management Arrangements) Amendment Bill 2016

The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum states the objective of the Bill is to amend the Water Act 2000 to facilitate the restructure and transfer of a number of SunWater’s channel irrigation schemes to local management arrangements (LMA). This will be achieved primarily by establishing a legislative transfer scheme, enabling a staged transition of potentially up to eight schemes. Transfer of ownership of the scheme will put the responsibility for the ongoing management of the schemes on the primary beneficiaries of the irrigation schemes—the irrigation customers.

SunWater is a government owned corporation which owns and operates eight channel irrigation schemes in Queensland.

The Bill was referred for Inquiry on 13th September 2016.

Submissions close 4 October 2016. For more see here.

Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016

The Bill seeks to better manage the environmental impacts of groundwater take by the mining industry and to protect the interests of farmers and other landholders whose groundwater is impacted by resource industry activities.

The Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (QLD) assented to last year, permits mining operators to take groundwater without a limit, and without regulatory oversight. The Bill before the current Parliament seeks to address concerns of potentially unsustainable take by empowering the state’s environmental regulator with the power to control take through an environmental authority application that will involve an environmental impact test of groundwater use for current projects. For future projects, a limited statutory right under section 334ZP allows for the taking or interfering with associated water by the holder of a mineral development licence or mining lease.

Currently, most mines in Queensland obtain a licence to take water under the Water Act 2000 (QLD). The Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014 (QLD) provided mining leaseholders with a statutory right to utilise water for associated use, which exempted them from obtaining a licence and undergoing the associated environmental planning oversight.

Amendments in the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 does not remove this statutory right, but simply limits it. The proposed Bill offers greater regulatory oversight, requiring a groundwater impact statement to be submitted during the environmental approval phase of a mine development. The Bill does not however, completely remove the statutory right to utilise water but simply provides more regulatory oversight of consumption and use.

The Bill also provides greater protection to landholder whose groundwater is impacted by resource activities. Queensland has a booming coal seam gas industry. A side-effect of exploitation of underground gas is leaching or the movement of free-gas into water bores. This affects the quality of water for landholders.  This Bill seeks to redistribute the power imbalance between individual farmers and resource companies, by introducing more rigorous ‘make good agreements’, placing the costs burden on companies rather than the individual for investigation and rectifying any impacts on water bores due to gas, and encouraging alternative dispute resolution.

The Bill is currently seeking submissions. Public submissions close on 7 October 2016.

 

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