by Alexia Austin
THE South West Local Government Association (SWLGA) unanimously voted to oppose the reinstatement of the State Government's Wild Rivers Legislation during their meeting in Thargomindah last Sunday.
The association, which is made up of the Bulloo, Quilpie, Paroo, Balonne and Murweh Shires and Maranoa Regional council, moved a motion to support the Quilpie and Bulloo Shire Councils' in their opposition of the reintroduction, which is yet to be formally announced by government.
The Wild Rivers Act, a legislation that adds extra regulations to waterway use and dam production, was introduced to the south-west Queensland region in 2011 by the Labor government of the day before its retraction in 2014..
The stated goal of the act was to maintain the condition of south-west Coopers Creek and the Diamantina and Georgina rivers by regulating industrial use, though many saw it as extra red tape for the resource sector that prevented exploration and discovery.
The rumblings of a reintroduction of the Act for the south-west region, renamed the Pristine Rivers legislation, were heard at Labor's 2017 Annual Conference held last Sunday.
This caused significant reverberations through local south-west governments, with the Quilpie Shire Mayor Stuart Mackenzie voicing his staunch opposition of the 'political' proposal.
"Currently premier Jackie Trad's south Brisbane seat is under contention, she risks losing it to the Greens. So the reintroduction is about getting green preferences, they are playing politics and we are the scapegoats,” Cr Mackenzie explained.
"If reintroduced, this legislation will have a substantial impact on the western local government areas of Quilpie, Bulloo and Maranoa by locking up development in this region.”
"Unfortunately we are very spread out here, so we have less perceived power, it's easier to bring this legislation in here.
"If it was fair or necessary it would be implemented state wide.
"The oil and gas industry has been operating since the 1960s, and they are still claiming these rivers are pristine. If these industries have been operating for so long and they are still claiming the rivers are pristine, what is the problem?
"We have enough challenges as it is - we have a population in decline, high youth unemployment.
"The last thing we need is one of our major, if not the most major industry, restricted by unnecessary legislation. There is already a massive amount of environmental protection in place over this region without it.”
Member for Warrego Ann Leahy also expressed a similar view, calling Labor's plans embarrassing.
"I am outraged by the treachery of the State Labor Government who on one hand say they stand up for gas production, whilst all the time having secret deals with the environmental lobby to block gas production and exploration in the Cooper Basin,” Ms Leahy said.
"The previous Wild Rivers laws were introduced without consultation and increased red tape affecting farmers and introduced constraints on best practice land management, creating perverse pest and weed outcomes.
"Locking up the Cooper Basin will affect the natural gas supply and affordability and drive up electricity prices and cost jobs across industry and the State.
"The South West Local Government Association (Bulloo, Quilpie, Balonne, Maranoa, Paroo and Murweh) unanimously voted to not support a wild rivers regulatory framework as they recognise the impact that the changes will have on jobs and communities.”
After passing the motion, the SWLGA will now petition against the reintroduction of the Act at state level.