In August, the Wild Rivers Act 2005 was repealed by the State Development, Infrastructure and Planning (Red Tape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2014. Subsequently, the Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 was introduced to Parliament. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the changes in the Bill:
form part of a whole-of-water business transformation which will responsibly accelerate productivity for Queensland and deliver an efficient, effective and modern water resource management framework … to accelerate growth of the agriculture and resources sectors and create economic development opportunities for rural and regional Queensland.
The Bill will achieve this in part by amending the purpose of the Water Act 2000. Its present purpose is for ‘the sustainable management of water and other resources…’ (emphasis added). In contrast, the proposed new purpose is for ‘the responsible and productive management of water and the management of impacts on underground water’ (emphasis added).
The Bill also amends the Mineral Resources Act 1989, allowing holders of mineral development licences or mining leases to ‘take or interfere with’ underground water in the area, in the course of their authorised activities under the lease or licence. This reflects a broader licensing framework for the Water Act. It allows a single licence authorising both interference and taking, assuming that these activities are linked.
The shift from sustainable management to responsible and productive management is indicative of the predominance in Queensland of economic concerns over environmental ones.