Gulf water plan review commences as new $4 million Regional Water Assessment announced

Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Minister for Water The Honourable Glenn Butcher
  • Gulf water plan review commences
  • Will consider ways to unlock more water for agriculture and critical minerals
  • Community encouraged to have their say through public consultations
  • $4 million Regional Water Assessment will explore future water demands and ways to enhance water security, drive economic growth and create more jobs

The Gulf water plan review has commenced, with an initial round of public consultation open until 17 July 2024. The water plan review will identify the best ways to allocate and manage water within the Gulf water plan catchments, as well as look at ways to unlock more water for agriculture and critical minerals.

In December 2023 the Gulf Water Plan Performance Assessment Report found the water plan was largely effective in advancing sustainable water resource management, however it did not support growth in irrigated agriculture and in the emerging minerals industry.

The Gulf water plan review is an opportunity for the community, water users, experts and key stakeholders to collaboratively consider how to best manage water resources in the region well into the future to support existing and emerging industries, water security for population growth and environmental needs.

The plan review process will take into account new climate modelling, which may indicate that more water could be available in the water plan area. The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water (the Department) is also considering what new and improved water products could better meet demand and ways to facilitate more water trading.

Extensive consultation will help the Department map demand, especially in the Flinders catchment where interest in additional water is high.

In response to surging interest for water from the emerging critical minerals sector and agriculture proposals, a new Gulf Regional Water Assessment (RWA) will run alongside the water plan review. Similar to the existing five RWAs in Queensland, the Gulf RWA will be a comprehensive assessment that examines future water demand and the best options to meet that demand.

The Gulf RWA process will bring together water users, communities, experts, First Nations groups and other key stakeholders to consider how to strengthen water security and drive economic growth through investment in water infrastructure and initiatives. Once complete, the RWA will set out how existing infrastructure, new infrastructure and non-infrastructure solutions can be used to maximise water supply in the Gulf and drive enhanced outcomes.

The Department will lead the $4 million Gulf RWA, with $2 million funding support from the Department of Resources’ office of Critical Minerals Queensland, in recognition of water’s importance for Queensland Critical Minerals Strategy activity in this area.

The RWA is a two-year process that will be informed by extensive stakeholder engagement and will consider existing and previously considered proposals and studies, as well as new proposals and water initiatives.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing, Minister for Water, Glenn Butcher:

“There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since the current plan commenced in 2007, so it’s important we have the most up to date science to see how much water we need for water security, economic development and for the environment.

“It was clear through the Performance Report released in December 2023, the Gulf water plan wasn’t achieving its objectives around supporting growth in the agriculture and critical minerals sector. In response to that finding – and following stakeholder feedback – I announced we’d kick-off a new review into the plan.

“We know there is a real interest in the Gulf region whether that’s in traditional agriculture, new high value ag proposals, or critical minerals projects.

“The Queensland Labor Government supports irrigated agriculture and we support developing the north. We’ve helped Marciano Grapes in Hughenden, we’ve got the $25.6 million funding on the table for the Hughenden Water Bank and we have continued to work with HipCo with their proposal, including funding for their Detailed Business Case and preliminary works.

“We know how important water security is to regional Queenslanders, so we must get these water planning processes right and listen to the science, the experts and the community as to how to best manage our vital water resources well into the future.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Resources and Critical Minerals, Scott Stewart:

“The region covered by the Gulf Water Plan is a major part of the North-West Minerals Province, where there is potentially $500 billion of critical mineral deposits.

“We want Queensland to be a global leader, supplier and manufacturer of critical minerals and renewable energy technologies, that’s why we have the $245 million Queensland Critical Minerals Strategy.

“This water assessment is critical to unlocking this potential and ensuring growth and prosperity in both the agriculture and critical minerals industries.”

Quotes attributable to Executive Director, Ingrid Fomiatti Minnesma:

“Once it became clear, through the Minister’s report, that the water plan was not adequately equipped for future demand from growing irrigated agriculture and the emerging critical minerals sector, then only one responsible course of action could be taken – bring the review forward.

“To proponents who are seeking water in the Flinders catchment, I would also say that there is more water available on the water trading market and we encourage proponents to explore that option. We know there are potential customers looking for those trading opportunities and it’s, so far, an untapped resource.

“We look forward to working with local First Nations peoples to best understand their cultural values and water needs to support their economic and social aspirations.”

/Public Release. View in full here.