20 Sustainable management of the Lake Eyre Basin rivers 209 that the government should regulate feedlots, dryland cropping, small- and large-scale irrigation, vegetation clearing and timber harvesting, but not livestock grazing, road or fence construction, fodder harvesting or vegetation thinning. There was a strong desire to prohibit ‘large scale irrigation’, with most AgForce constituents also strongly supporting regulation of mining exploration and development on the floodplains and in watercourses. Support for regulation of agriculture away from watercourses and on the adjoining floodplains was significantly lower. Paradoxically, some respondents also called for the removal or replacement of the Wild Rivers Act, because it was not sympathetic to people living on these rivers, even though this was clearly the most effective legislative instrument to protect the values and control the threats of most concern to AgForce members. The Liberal National Party Government (2012–15) revoked the Wild Rivers declarations for Cooper Creek and the Georgina and Diamantina Rivers with the State Development and Infrastructure Planning (Red Tape Reduction) Act (5 August 2014 Table 20.1). Expansion of ‘small scale’ irrigation was also encouraged by amending the Cooper Creek Resource Operations Plan at the last minute, to allow trade and transfer of the large ‘sleeper entitlements’ near Windorah (Fig. 20.1). There were clear legislative, policy and management consequences affecting the values of the Lake Eyre Basin rivers. The highly effective framework for protecting Queensland’s Lake Eyre Basin rivers and regulation of development were removed, replaced by currently ineffectual legislation. High-impact surface mining and petroleum and gas activities would not be prohibited or regulated along the rivers, including in the Channel Country (Table 20.2). Further, expansion of petroleum and gas industries was promoted into the Channel Country, through the release of the Cooper Basin Industry Development Strategy (Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines 2015). This strategy proposed accelerated development of the deep gas and oil industry, as well as the development of a Cooper Basin Water Strategy to stimulate deep gas extraction (‘fracking’). The future regulate, educate or open the gate? Governments will need to meet community expectations in Australia and internationally, for the protection of the Lake Eyre Basin’s natural and cultural values. However, there are clear inequities. Many agricultural people want to reduce regulations on their industry, but insist that the mining, petroleum and gas industries be rigidly regulated. This contradicts principles of natural justice, procedural fairness and equitable application of legislative provisions where regulation is required in the public interest. It is also not sufficient to argue that ‘small scale’ irrigation can occur without considering the ramifications (see Chapter 22). History has shown that without appropriate control and protection, many of Australia’s irrigation areas have significantly affected the ecological health of rivers. Many started as ‘small scale’ property drought-proofing schemes, ratcheting up into major irrigation areas taking considerable quantities of water river and groundwater reserves (see Chapters 14 and 15). This has had a considerable impact on the long-term health of riverine ecosystems (Kingsford 2000 Arthington and Pusey 2003 Bino et al. 2016), the integrity of natural flows on floodplains and many of the communities
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