Grazier: Leahy has ‘wrong end of the stick’ on environmental laws

A GRAZIER is criticising the Palaszczuk government's proposed changes to Channel Country environmental laws, which he fears could lead to wide scale fracking. 

Angus Emmot of Longreach and the Lock the Gate Alliance has hit back at comments made by Warrego MP Ann Leahy, who said any changes to the Wild Rivers legislation - laws surrounding protection of the Queensland section of the Lake Eyre Basin - would cause a stoppage of resources activity, and therefore income to southwest Queensland.

Mr Emmot told the Western Times Ms Leahy was justified in some of her criticism, but 'has the wrong end of the stick' when it comes to resources operations in the west.

"Ann Leahy's comments are an insult to graziers who depend on the free flowing rivers of the Channel Country for the survival of their businesses," he said.

"She is right to criticise the Palaszczuk Government's draft legislation, but unfortunately she has the wrong end of the stick; Channel Country and the Lake Eyre Basin must not be opened up for gas fracking exploitation."

Ms Leahy's concerns about the draft legislation primarily came from the potential difficulties being created for resources companies.

In an interview with the Western Times, Ms Leahy said companies would be more inclined to divest or go elsewhere if it was too difficult to operate in the region.

"I think it will actually stop a lot of exploration activity out in the Eromanga and Cooper Basins, because it will increase the compliance," she said.

"Looking at some of the stuff that I have seen, they won't be able to build a road, or have a camp, or deal with sewerage disposal.

"If you can't do that, you aren't going to go there, and if that is where your leases are, you're simply not going to develop your lease.

"So it will really impact on companies like Santos and Bridgeport, and their ability to explore and continue."

She went on to explain her belief that if the resource companies vacated, local communities would be left in the lurch.

"There are a lot of indigenous people who are employed by the companies in that area, not to mention both the Quilpie and Bulloo shire councils, which receive a lot of income from the oil and gas industry," Ms Leahy said

"It is why those particular councils are quite sustainable in the longer term, and it will just cause this trickle down spiral effect.

"Basically, if they lock it up, everyone is going to leave it."

Mr Emmot disagrees, however; his interpretation of the proposed legislation is that resources activities are not under a blanket ban, and will be allowed in parts of the region.

In a confidential consultation briefing produced in late 2019, the Queensland Government proposed that protected zones in Channel Country would be expanded, and changes be made to the lists of 'acceptable' and 'unacceptable' uses of land in those zones.

In Mr Emmot's opinion, resources activity of any kind will have negative impacts on Channel Country, and its graziers in particular.

"While some gas infrastructure will not be permitted on the floodplains, the draft regulation proposes to allow gas wells and associated roads and pipelines, which will interrupt the flow of the rivers and damage agriculture that depends on them," Mr Emmot said.

"A green light for fracking would have a massive impact on water resources as well as our clean green beef industry that thrives in the region.

"Experts have estimated that if a fracking industry is developed in our region it might involve as many as 9,000 gas wells. Some estimates put that at 24,000 gas wells.

"Not only would that level of industrialisation destroy our floodplains, but it would destroy our industry.

"We're privileged to have some of the last free-flowing desert rivers left on earth in outback Queensland, and the fracking industry should not be let loose on them.

"The fracking industry also requires vast quantities of water to undertake fracking, and is likely to try to source that water from the Great Artesian Basin.

"Pastoralists have been working hard over two decades to cap bores and enclose pipes to limit loss from the Basin and restore pressure.

"The gas industry would do the opposite, creating massive new demand for a resource that is already under stress.

"The gas industry itself states that it needs about 10ML of water per frack, and one well can be fracked up to 10 times. If you spread that across 9,000 wells, you're looking at something in the order of 900GL of water they may be after to frack their wells.

"The Palaszczuk Government must urgently reconsider its approach. It must protect the Channel Country rivers and floodplains from fracking, for good, to properly safeguard sustainable industries like agriculture and tourism that the region relies on."

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