Great Artesian Basin Australian Issue

30 April 2021. Michael Guerin, AgForce CEO.

The Great Artesian Basin is one of Australia’s most precious natural resources.

As such, it’s not surprising that the federal government has an overarching plan to ensure it is protected into the future.

That road map is called the Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan 2019, and it was jointly prepared by the Australian, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian and Northern Territory Governments – all the states and territories under which that great body of underground water lies. Which gives some insight into the size and importance of the GAB to this country.

Why a joint plan? Because the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) is a federal/national resource. This most recent plan replaced the first one from 2000 – written almost two decades previously.

Yet, AgForce is being told by some experts that the solution to a current proposal (by Glencore/CTSCo – a multinational mining giant) to pump industrial waste into the Great Artesian Basin near Moonie in the Western Downs region, lies in utilising Queensland State Government and Queensland statutes.

Put simply – we disagree. To say we are perplexed would be an understatement.

The Great Artesian Basin Plan of 2019 has a vision – and it states that: ‘The Great Artesian Basin is managed judiciously through the optimal use of the water for present and future generations in a manner that upholds the values of the Basin and maintains water-dependent ecosystems by governments, communities and industry working together’.

The plan has been developed ‘within agreed national water policy frameworks’.

Interestingly – in a prescient point that many have long since forgotten – the 2015 Review of the first plan identified that an emerging challenge for our Great Artesian Basin would be ‘injection of gases’.

Yet, on 9 February 2022, less than a month after it first received the complete project proposal (and while most of us were trying to have a break) the then Federal Government waved through the Glencore/CTSCo proposal to pump C02 waste into the Basin.

AgForce’s current legal action in the Federal Court is simply to seek a judicial review of that decision.

It took just four weeks in the holiday season of January/February 2022 to make a decision that could result in irreversible consequences for our Great Artesian Basin, and the current federal Government appears unwilling to bring it back in for review. That is why Court is now sadly our last but necessary resort.

We may (fingers crossed) get a decision at any moment by the Queensland State Government to decline the current Glencore proposal under what’s called the State EIS process.

That would be worth celebrating – but only momentarily. The issue is far broader than that – we are not overstating it to say the national interest is at stake. Band aids at a state level will not protect our Great Artesian Basin to sustain our environment for future generations.

/Public Release. View in full here.