Lake Eyre Basin Rivers 210 dependent on these flows. It would be a tragedy to see history repeated on the Lake Eyre Basin’s rivers. Protection of the Lake Eyre Basin’s rivers and their floodplains, including their natural and cultural values, requires reinstatement of statutory controls to protect the natural river processes from inappropriate development, through either the Wild Rivers Act, an amendment of the Environmental Protection Act or Water Act. Or there could be separate legislation, such as a Lake Eyre Basin Natural Rivers Management Act, with similar protection measures. The future protective framework for the Lake Eyre Basin rivers should retain the most important protective measures of the Wild Rivers legislation for ‘sensitive areas’, such as HPAs and SFMAs. For the water legislation, a reduction in trading options for the current ‘sleeper licences’ in the Basin’s rivers would also protect the river’s values (see Chapter 22). It is critical that pumping thresholds and the ‘no storage’ provision be retained for all water licences so that large amounts of water cannot be diverted during high river flows. Given current low interest in purchasing existing unallocated water for ‘small scale’ irrigation, the water plans in the catchments should not be reviewed or altered until all existing entitlements and reserves of water are fully utilised or potentially the current unused entitlements are extinguished through a ‘buy back’ process (see Chapter 22). Predicted end-of-system flow percentages for Cooper Creek (99.6% of mean annual flow and 99.3% of median annual flow) are some of the best in Queensland but they would be expected to decrease with additional water extraction, if ‘small scale’ irrigation or mining took more water. Reductions on the extent and frequency of flooding of the Channel Country from mid and high flows would be inevitable. Conclusion Future Queensland governments may have different views and change the policies of their predecessors in the future protection and management of the rivers and wetlands of the Lake Eyre Basin. The arguments over water resource development will probably wax and wane with the changing political will and agendas. However, there remains a strong coalition of landholders, scientists, Traditional Owners and many other educated and connected community members, within and outside the Basin, committed to the protection of these rivers (see Chapter 7) and their dynamic ecology. Protection and regulation of rivers by governments to deliver on the community’s expectations is critical. Considerable long-term ecological degradation and social impacts can occur if governments ‘open the gate’ to further development of the Lake Eyre Basin’s rivers or exploitation of its groundwater, particularly when existing regulations on protecting sensitive areas are removed or new regulations are not sufficiently powerful to constrain resource exploitation that damages the environment. Future generations will judge decision-makers harshly if they fail to adequately protect these unique rivers. References Arthington AH, Pusey BJ (2003) Flow restoration and protection in Australian rivers. River Research and Applications 19, 377–395. doi:10.1002/rra.745 Bino G, Kingsford RT, Brandis K (2016) Australia’s wetlands: learning from the past to manage for the future. Pacific Conservation Biology 22, 116–129. doi:10.1071/PC15047
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