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All mines currently under development in Queensland that will have an impact on groundwater will be required to obtain an “associated water licence” under laws passed in Parliament early today (10 November 2016).
Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 allowed the Palaszczuk Government to fulfil its election commitment to reverse Newman-Nicholls laws which sought to deregulate the mining industry and give them an “unlimited right to take”.
“Queensland’s environment has been under threat from a ticking time-bomb – reckless laws passed by the LNP which were left waiting to commence automatically on December 6,” Dr Miles said.
“After lengthy debate, the threat to the environment and rural communities created by those laws has been defused.
“In contrast, the LNP again stood up in Parliament and attempted to deregulate groundwater in Queensland.
“They moved amendments which would have exempted specific projects chosen by the LNP from having to apply for and qualify for a water licence. How did they select those projects, and what undertakings did they make to those companies?
“The Palaszczuk Government, through consultation and sensible laws, won the support of independent MPs and the Katter Australia Party,” he said.
Dr Miles said all mining projects “already advanced” in their approvals process would be required to obtain an associated water licence.
He moved an amendment strengthening the expertise and knowledge between regulators dealing with water issues by ensuring the Director-General of DNRM consulted with the Director-General of EHP before making a decision on an associated water licence.
“I’m pleased with this step towards linking the important work by my colleagues in NRM and my own agency,” he said.
“I will direct the Director-General of EHP that he is to form his opinion regarding groundwater impacts to be based on advice from an independent panel.
“The panel will be formed by the Director-General of EHP and Director-General of DNRM and will consist of the Queensland Chief Scientist and three other members qualified in the law, public administration and natural resource matters.
“Parliament also agreed that if a court has already delivered its judgement after completing its exhaustive cross-examination of the groundwater impacts of a mine and determined there is no impediment to the mine proceeding, that there is no benefit in the courts once again repeating that scrutiny”.
Dr Miles said “future” mining projects will have the environmental impacts of their groundwater take initially assessed under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 as part their environmental authority application.
He said stronger rights for farmers was another outcome of the new Bill.
“This will be achieved by improving the existing ‘make good’ obligations under the underground water management framework in the Water Act 2000.
“When they become law, the amendments we passed will ensure landholders are in a stronger negotiating position and are fairly compensated for impacts on their infrastructure and on the water resources they rely on,” Dr Miles said.