RELATED: Concern over CSG cumulative impacts
QUEENSLAND government has been accused of shortchanging farmers across the Great Artesian Basin, following comments from Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham linking a farmer-funded artesian bore investment and the expansion of coal seam gas.
This week, Dr Lynham called for the federal government to deliver more funding to a range of measures designed to expand gas production, including new pipelines and release of land for gas which is only available to the Australian market.
He also called on continued funding for the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI), which he noted had returned more than 200 megalitres of groundwater a year.
GABSI matched Commonwealth funds with contributions from state governments and landholders to cap and pipe free flowing bores and drains, to return pressure to the system and end “unsustainable use” of the resource.
“Ending GABSI sends a poor message to landholders and community at a time when Governments (sic) are actively seeking to accelerate gas developments that will require the use of water resources,” Dr Lynham said.
Queensland’s call for GABSI water coincides with increased industry pressure in other Great Artesian Basin (GAB) states.
NSW is assessing a proposal from Santos to drill 850 wells at its Narrabri project, South Australia has launched a landholder royalty scheme to encourage property owners to cooperate with industry and Victoria maintains its moratorium amid criticism from the likes of federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan.
GREAT GABSI: cap and pipe benefits
- Governments investment $230m
- Landholders’ investment $143m
- 719 free flowing bores capped
- 21,000km of drains removed
- 31,000km piping installed
- Total water saving: 240GL a year
Landholder group Basin Sustainability Alliance chairman Lee McNicholl accused Dr Lynham of an “unsustainable con job at agriculture’s expense”.
“It is absurd and totally inequitable for Dr Lynham to argue that water saved by the GABSI scheme, which was designed to restore GAB water take to sustainable management, should then be given out on an unlimited basis free of any charge to the mining sector,” Mr McNicholl said.
“Landholders have matched government funds in the GABSI scheme. Why should they then subsidise the unsustainable impacts of the mining sector?”
The issue is set to arise at Queensland’s Rural Press Club today (Thursday), when former federal Resources Minister, and current Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane speaks on the topic: agriculture and resources - successful coexistence or a pipe dream?
Across the life of the Surat CSG field, it is estimated that 3,570GL of groundwater (an average of 80GL a year) will flow from the coal seams which both underlay productive aquifers and deliver their own supplies in other areas.
Currently, $6m of government money is deployed in ongoing works set to save about 8GL. But funding for GABSI is set to end in June, prompting Dr Lynham’s call for further Commonwealth investment.
Dr Lynham did not respond by deadline, but a spokesman for the Department said “strict requirements” were in place to ensure bore owners are not disadvantaged by CSG, which includes ‘make good’ obligations to landholders.
A Department spokesman pointed to a release of unallocated groundwater made by the Palaszczuk Government in October 2015, which opened 18.2GL of water to public tender.
Dr Lynham said at the time that “the release of unallocated water will provide targeted support to rural and agricultural industries including irrigated stock feed, hay production and sorghum cropping.”
Records of the tender process show of the 18.GL offered, 1.8GL was sold. Government received 20 tenders and 15 were accepted. Prices ranged from $1450 a megalitre to $3001/ML.
The 18.2GL released in 2015 has since been incorporated into reserves available under the Great Artesian Basin and Other Regional Aquifers management plan. It made 35GL of unallocated water available. Major projects were reserved 28.6GL while agriculture received 5.6GL allcoation. Within the Surat Basin 0.84GL of unallocated water is available for agriculture