Natural Resources Minister, Anthony Lynham, recently announced a process to develop a water resource plan (WRP) for Cape York Peninsula. Cape York is the last region in Queensland to have a WRP put in place. The rest of Queensland is covered by 23 other WRP’s which have been developed since the Water Act 2000 was passed 16 years ago.
There has been some negative reactions to the temporary moratorium on new applications for water allocations while the WRP is being developed. This will be a short-term inconvenience. Cape York residents should in fact welcome the development of a WRP, because it means a purpose made plan for water resources in their region is on its way.
Currently, water resources are managed on Cape York under the state-wide general provisions of the Water Act 2000. When a WRP is put in place for Cape York, it will mean these water resources will be managed under a framework that reflects the real and local conditions and circumstances. This has the potential to significantly benefit Cape York.
As the Natural Resources Minister in the former LNP Government, I progressed a number of preliminary studies on Cape York in preparation for the development of a WRP. While a WRP for Cape York has the potential to be a platform for economic development across the region, it could go either way, mainly due to the anti-development policies of the Palaszczuk Government.
The former LNP Government knew water reform was essential for future economic development opportunities in regional Queensland, particularly North Queensland. This included inserting a broader purpose into the Act to consider community and economic outcomes and creating a pathway for new, large scale water infrastructure projects (the water development option).
Urged on by the Greens, Labor is now seeking to overturn these reforms by reinstating the notoriously restrictive ‘ecologically sustainable development’ as the overarching purpose of the Water Act and preventing new, large scale water infrastructure projects being assessed and approved through the Water Act, by scrapping the water development option.
Neither of these proposals are good news for the development of the Cape York WRP. As part of this process, Minister Lynham will establish a consultative group to represent the local community. The Palaszczuk Government should appoint genuine locals with practical knowledge of water resources on Cape York. There is a risk it will appoint green activists and Labor cronies.
The former LNP Government delivered a modernised planning framework that allowed for the productive and responsible use of water resources in Queensland. Despite the Federal LNP Government’s Northern Australia White Paper offering an opportunity to develop North Queensland, the Palaszczuk Government is heading in the opposite direction.
The locals shouldn’t be worried about a Cape York WRP. It’s Labor’s relationship with the Greens and the reversal of the LNP’s water reforms that should concern them. Sound science and respect for local knowledge is the key to a Cape York WRP that delivers security for water users, economic development opportunities and a sustainable environment.
ANDREW CRIPPS MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATURAL RESOURCES, MINES & NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR HINCHINBROOK