Two months after the close of public submissions on an amendment to the Gulf Water Resource Plan (WRP), the new Labor Government has failed to progress the release of additional unallocated water for irrigated agriculture in the Flinders and Gilbert River catchments.
Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Northern Development, Andrew Cripps, said given public submissions on the proposed amendment closed on 10 February 2015, the new Labor Government had had plenty of time to consider the issues and release the new Gulf WRP.
“The science is in – backed up by a comprehensive CSIRO Report – that the volumes of additional water to be released in the proposed amendment are sustainable, so I can’t understand why the new Labor Government is taking so long to get things moving” said Mr Cripps.
“The advice I had, as the previous Minister, was the additional allocations would have minimal impact on downstream processes such as the Gulf fishery and could achieve roughly the same reliability as existing entitlements on the Flinders and Gilbert Rivers” he said.
“Labor can’t hide behind a lack of available science anymore, they’ve got to get on with the job of releasing these additional volumes of water for new irrigated agriculture opportunities in North and North West Queensland – Labor has no more excuses” said Mr Cripps.
“This review of the Gulf WRP has been completed under Water Act processes put in place by Labor when it was previously in government, so they can’t use the current delay to Water Act amendments proposed by the LNP last year as an excuse either” he said.
Mr Cripps said as Natural Resources Minister in the previous LNP Government, he had overseen the release of 95,000 mega litres (MLs) of water in 2013, an amendment to do with water trading rules in 2014 and commenced the current review, all within one term of government.
“I wanted to provide new opportunities for irrigated agriculture in North and North West Queensland and the current proposal for an additional 266,000 MLs in the Flinders and 489,000 MLs in the Gilbert was the next step in encouraging that development” said Mr Cripps.
“I’m calling on the new Labor Government to get its act together and progress what should be a straightforward decision, because all the work has been done – the research and consultation is all completed – this amendment to the Gulf WRP is ready to go” he said.
Mr Cripps said the final steps involved in the process was for the Minister to approve the amendment to the Gulf WRP and release the new unallocated water through a competitive tender process, which would encourage new investment in North and North West Queensland.