Landmark water releases to support Gulf agriculture

Published Tuesday, 28 May, 2013 at 06:00 AM

Minister for Natural Resources and Mines
The Honourable Andrew Cripps

The Newman Government has taken another important step towards creating a sustainable irrigated agricultural industry in the Gulf Country of north west Queensland.

Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps has today announced that water licences had been granted for a total of 94,220 megalitres of unallocated water from the Flinders and Gilbert river catchments following a successful competitive tender process.

“There has been strong interest in this tender process for unallocated water in the Gulf Water Resource Plan area, which proves there is a real appetite from local landholders to diversify into cropping, which will create jobs in local communities and grow the economy in north west Queensland,” Mr Cripps said.

“The Department of Natural Resources and Mines received 22 applications for the unallocated water - 18 in the Flinders River catchment and 4 in the Gilbert River catchment - when the tender closed on 26 October 2012.

“Following a comprehensive evaluation process, DNRM has granted 6 water licences, including three licences in the Flinders River catchment totalling 80,000 megalitres, and three in the Gilbert River catchment totalling 14,220 megalitres.”

Mr Cripps said the release of the water struck the right balance between economic development and the sustainable use of water resources.

“Water licences granted through the tender process include conditions to protect existing rights to water and the Gulf's environmental, cultural, tourism and fisheries values,” he said.

“It is important to note that the volumes of water we have released had been identified as ‘unallocated’ under the Gulf WRP, after environmental flows had been taken into account.”

Mr Cripps said the success of this tender had paved the way for a wider review of water use in the area.

“I have committed to bringing forward a review of the volume of water available under the plan for the Gilbert and Flinders River if the North Queensland Irrigated Agriculture Strategy shows that more water can be sustainably allocated from the Flinders and Gilbert Rivers,” he said.

“This assessment is being undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Queensland Government and I understand key findings will be available in December 2013.

“In addition, officers from my Department are already investigating options to allow for greater flexibility within existing water licences to support further development by making licences tradable where it is practical to do so.

“The Department has started a process to amend the Gulf Resource Operations Plan to provide for trading of these and other water licences in the Gulf Water Resource Plan area.”

All tender applications for the Flinders and Gilbert River unallocated water were assessed in accordance with the mandatory evaluation criteria specified in the Water Act 2000, the Gulf Water Resource Plan 2007 and Gulf Resource Operations Plan 2010.

Environmental issues relating to these unallocated water reserve volumes were subject to comprehensive technical assessment and community consultation during development of the Gulf Water Resource Plan.

Further information about water resource planning is available at:

[ENDS] 28 May 2013

Media contact: Jane Paterson 0417 281 754 or Paul Sutherland 0428 868 237