Protecting Great Artesian Basin sits with Federal Government

23 April 2024. Michael Guerin, AgForce CEO.

The Great Artesian Basin sits under four states and territories of Australia, representing a water resource some 130,000 times the size of Sydney Harbour and relied upon by hundreds of communities across inland Australia.

It is without doubt one of Australia’s most valuable natural resources.

The statute that protects it is the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

That Federal Act and regulations are Australia’s main national environmental framework, providing the safeguard for us to manage nationally and internationally important plants, animals, habitats, and places.

However on February 9 2022, that Act failed to protect the Great Artesian Basin from a proposal from mining giant Glencore to pump waste into it. The proposal sailed through, and as a result, there are now several similar proposals lining up behind it.

So, while the Queensland Environmental Impact Statement process COULD stop the Glencore proposal at the final hurdle (I imagine we’ll find out soon), the issue is fundamentally a federal one and that is where this conflict must be solved.

AgForce is resolute in leaving no stone unturned in seeking a strong and lasting solution federally, including pursuing a judicial review of that February 9 2022 decision.

But over and above that review, industry is also working hard to ensure the changes currently being contemplated for the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act include a specific Great Artesian Basin/Water trigger.

In a little over a week at the great rural gathering that is Beef 2024, we believe the Federal Government has an opportunity to stand with the State Government and provide the solution to this. Industry would applaud that leadership, and we are optimistic it can happen.

Because while a State Government decision against the Glencore proposal would be a win, it would not solve the larger problem of protecting the Great Artesian Basin for generations to come. That national protection issue, is one only the federal government can resolve.

/Public Release. View in full here.