‘Short-Sighted’: Peak Body Criticises Decision to Ban Oil, Gas Development in Lake Eyre Basin

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Australia’s competition watchdog has previously warned the country faces a gas shortfall in 2024.

A peak industry association representing Queensland’s minerals and energy producers has criticised the state government for banning new oil and gas development in the country’s largest drainage basin.

The ban came a few days after Queensland Premier Steven Miles assumed the position of the state’s leader following the resignation of predecessor, Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Under the ban, the Queensland government will prohibit all future oil and gas production in the Lake Eyre Basin’s rivers and floodplains.

However, the ban will not cover existing approved conventional gas developments, and holders of existing petroleum exploration permits can apply for a production lease until Aug. 30, 2024.

Lake Eyre Basin is one of the largest drainage basins in the world. It covers an area of 1.2 million square kilometres, including parts of Queensland, South Australia, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.

Large tracts of the Basin is considered arid, supporting just 60,000 people, with the major land use (82 percent) being for low-density grazing.

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It is also well-known for containing significant oil and gas resources.

Following the announcement, Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane criticised the state government for not considering the social and economic impact of preventing further expansion of Australia’s gas reserves.

“Reports this week indicate Australia’s East Coast is facing another gas shortage over the next few years and will rely on Queensland producers to ensure supply to millions of homes and businesses,” he said in a statement.

“Less supply means higher gas prices for Australians already struggling with cost-of-living pressures.

“Unless governments are prepared to allow and support new gas projects to be developed, not only will energy prices continue to climb, but southern states are going to run out of gas.”

The CEO noted that the decision was a blow to the energy sector, which had engaged in good faith with the Queensland government and other stakeholders and was willing to work with them to maintain the highest standards to protect the environment.

“The Queensland gas industry has developed alongside agriculture and other regional industries over the past six decades, supporting regional communities, and providing a benefit to all Queenslanders,” he said.

“There is no reason why the gas industry can’t continue along the same regulated and sustainable path that provides new opportunities for the communities of South West Queensland.”

Mr. Macfarlane also believed the ban would create more policy uncertainty for the resources sector and hinder new investments while impacting the livelihood of local communities relying on oil and gas extraction.

Mr. Macfarlane’s remarks come after a June report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission indicated that Australia’s southern states would likely experience a gas shortfall in 2024.

The consumer watchdog warned that the shortfall risk would remain unless there was considerable transport and storage capacity to deliver Queensland’s surplus gas to those states.

Queensland Government’s Response

Meanwhile, Mr. Miles said the new policy would protect the Lake Eyre Basin for future generations of Queenslanders.

“The changes strike a good balance in preserving the Queensland Lake Eyre Basin region while providing industry with the tools they need to grow and develop,” the premier said in a statement.

Echoing the sentiment, Queensland Environment Minister Leanne Linard highlighted the importance of preserving the Basin.

“Maintaining clean and uninterrupted flow of the waterways in the basin is critical to the survival of the wildlife and the businesses and communities in the region,” she said.

“The Miles government is committed to the ongoing preservation of the ecological and cultural values in the rivers, watercourses and floodplains of the Queensland Lake Eyre Basin and First Nations Peoples’ connection to the land.”

Environmentalist group Lock The Gate welcomed the ban and hoped to see more similar policies from the government.

“Unconventional oil and gas extraction can require thousands of wells to be drilled across a landscape, with each well requiring millions of litres of water for a single frack,” Lock the Gate Alliance national coordinator Ellen Roberts said.

“This sort of development would have decimated the fragile and unique rivers and floodplains of the Channel Country. It would have pushed out existing sustainable industries and wreaked havoc on cultural sites.”

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