Clock ticks on Great Artesian Basin decision

Published: 22nd May 2024

A coalition of councils, farmers and conservationists are calling on Premier Steven Miles to ensure he rules in favour of one of Queensland’s most precious resources and bans Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the Great Artesian Basin (GAB).  
With a decision due this month on an application to allow CCS in the GAB, Queensland Councils, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and the Queensland Conservation Council remain united in their opposition to the project.  
“We were heartened to hear the Premier’s comments earlier this month when he spoke of his reservations on the project,” LGAQ Chief Executive Officer Alison Smith said.  
“Now we need him to turn those words into action, reject this application and then protect the GAB against similar applications into the future.”  
QFF Chief Executive Officer Jo Sheppard said QFF continues to call for the Queensland Government to put in place regulations to protect the Queensland component of the GAB from future CCS bids.  
“In the absence of federal policy, the Queensland Government can and must take a leadership role to respond to the people of Queensland and ensure the GAB is protected for generations to come,” Ms Sheppard said.  
“The GAB is a critical, precious resource not just for the farmers and regional communities that rely on it, but for the country.
“It must be protected for future generations. Now is the time for the Premier to step up and make it happen.” 
Queensland Conservation Council Director Dave Copeman said the Great Artesian Basin is vital for the ecology and communities of regional Queensland.
“The Basin is one of the largest groundwater systems in the world and permanently refreshes and feeds most of the rivers of inland Australia,” Mr Copeman said. 
“We shouldn’t be risking these life-giving water sources.” 
Murweh Shire Mayor Shaun ‘Zoro’ Radnedge said nothing short of a total moratorium on carbon capture and storage would protect the GAB and the communities whose survival depended on it. 
“Time is running out, D-Day is coming up very soon,” Mayor Radnedge said. 
“We need the decision makers, the State Government and the Premier to show common sense and protect the Great Artesian Basin for all the communities that rely on that all through Queensland. 
“Within our community, we rely on the Great Artesian Basin for 100 per cent of our water and we cannot risk that for our sustainability - for agriculture, our drinking water - all the water we access in the Murweh Shire is based from the Great Artesian Basin.” 
Etheridge Shire Mayor Barry Hughes said the Great Artesian Basin supported life across inland Australia. 
“The Great Artesian Basin in my view has come under attack from corporate Australia in terms of the mining industry looking to contaminate what is an iconic water supply,” Mayor Hughes said. 
“In my view, the Great Artesian Basin is non-negotiable when it comes to utilising it as a dumping point for carbon-impacted water. 
“And we all know the rural communities in regional Australia depend upon this vital source of water to sustain communities and life right across the broad spectrum of inland Australia. 
“An iconic part of the Australian landscape is not to be tampered with in any shape or form.” 
Blackall-Tambo Regional Shire Mayor Andrew ‘Marto’ Martin said the clock was ticking on the future of the GAB. 
“If you poison our well, we can’t drink it – 60 per cent of the land mass of Queensland drink the water straight from the artesian basin,” Mayor Martin said. 
“The tourists, the animals, the people, the crops, the whole infrastructure of rural industry in inland Australia on top of the Great Artesian Basin depend on the Great Artesian Basin. Poison it and we are out of there. 
“We need an answer quickly.” 
Isaac Regional Council Mayor Kelly Vea Vea said legislation was needed to protect the GAB. 
“We know this approval would set a dangerous precedent for the Great Artesian Basin and that’s why as local government we’re standing against it,” Mayor Vea Vea said. 
“Not only should this application be rejected, but we know that legislation should be put in place to prevent this ever occurring, for the benefit of all the communities that thrive off the Great Artesian Basin. 
“I think all councils in Queensland understand the impact that an approval like this could have and it is only right that we stand together and protect the future of the Great Artesian Basin for the future of communities, businesses and for councils in the future.” 
Gladstone Regional Council Mayor Matt Burnett said risking the Great Artesian Basin was not the way to reduce emissions. 
“From a Gladstone point of view, we are leading the way when it comes to renewable energy and energy transition but what we don’t want to see is the Great Artesian Basin ruined on the way through to chasing net zero by 2050,” Mayor Burnett said. 
“It’s a target that we know we all need to achieve but what we don’t want to see is one of Australia’s greatest assets destroyed in the meantime.” 
Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Geoff McDonald said a number of towns and jobs in his region relied on the GAB for drinking water. 
“Tinkering with the Great Artesian Basin with any level of risk of what it could end up like, the unknown, is just not worth the risk,” Mayor McDonald said. 
Longreach Regional Council Mayor Tony Rayner said carbon capture had been used overseas in saline aquifers, not water communities relied on for drinking and agriculture. 
“Here in Queensland, it’s our lifeblood and we certainly don’t want it to be put at any risk that’s why it’s critical the state make an urgent decision not to allow the injection of CO2 into the Great Artesian Basin,” Mayor Rayner said. 
Maranoa Regional Council Deputy Mayor Cameron O’Neil said southeast Queensland might not realise how vital the GAB was to regional Queensland. 
“Our community is 100 per cent reliant on the GAB for potable water. Our agricultural producers rely on this beautiful resource and very important resource and it needs to be protected at all costs,” Cr O’Neil said. 
“Without it, our communities would not survive.”
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