Lake Eyre Basin Rivers 222 and Balonne) Plan 2004 (Queensland Government 2004). However, from 1989 to 2004 the number of irrigation licences had grown and have become highly valuable assets as tradable water entitlements. The Condamine (Lower Balonne) Resource Operation Plan 2008 (Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines 2008), amended in 2010 to include the Lower Balonne, now authorises water entitlements of 94 655 ML of water a year. The term ‘entitlements’ includes water harvesting. This example provides a powerful story of how irrigation can quickly develop, impacting on downstream environments and dependent landholders and communities (see Chapters 14 and 15). The strong support for protection of the Lake Eyre Basin rivers by communities (see Chapter 7) is widely informed by examples such as the development of the Lower Balonne. Lake Eyre Basin communities strongly support river and floodplain protection There have been consistent calls for the protection of the rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin by local communities, including Aboriginal communities, graziers, tour operators and environmental scientists (see Chapter 7). The Tibooburra declaration in 2011 (Table 21.1 see Chapter 8) demonstrated similar unequivocal support for the protection of the rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin by Traditional Owners, reinforced in later years. There was widespread support from farmers and graziers for the importance and need for high-level protection of land and water in the Lake Eyre Basin, when surveyed in late 2012 by AgForce, Queensland’s peak organisation for graziers and farmers (see Chapter 20). Within the Lake Eyre Basin, there was apprehension at the impacts of large-scale commercial irrigation and mineral, petroleum and gas resource exploration and extraction. AgForce called for no further ‘take’ of water for irrigation above that identified in the current water management plans, until a more efficient use of current allocations was investigated. Furthermore, AgForce supported a moratorium on coal seam gas development in regions where there was inadequate scientific understanding of the associated risks. The AgForce organisation broadly supported replacement of wild rivers legislation while voicing a clear desire ‘for transparent and rigorous delivery of a high level of protection for the environment’ (AgForce 2013). The Western Rivers Advisory Panel, established in 2013 by the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, sent the same message to the Minister calling for strong environmental protection for the Lake Eyre Basin rivers (Western Rivers Advisory Panel 2013). Established by Minister Cripps in 2012, the Western Rivers Advisory Panel was to give stakeholder advice on alternative strategies in respect of the three main rivers of the Lake Eyre Basin. While it had a similar range of stakeholders as the Lake Eyre Basin Wild Rivers Advisory Panel, its membership was different. Members of the Lake Eyre Basin Wild Rivers Advisory Panel who were strong advocates of Wild Rivers declaration were left off the Western Rivers Advisory Panel (see Chapter 8) and there was no environment or South Australian representative. Aboriginal members were reduced from four to two. Under the terms of reference, the Western Rivers Advisory Panel was directed not to consider an option of retaining the Wild Rivers declaration instead the panel had to primarily identify ‘values or assets of the Basin which were the most important, where protection of these values should be focused and the level of protection that is required’ (Western Rivers Advisory Panel 2013, p. 4).
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