Water mining bans in Gold Coast hinterland to continue

Bans on commercial water extraction in the Gold Coast hinterland region have been extended to allow for further study of their impacts on aquifers.

The bans were introduced in 2020 after bores in Springbrook and Tamborine Mountain ran dry during a drought; they had been due to expire on 5 March.

However, Queensland State Water Minister Glenn Butcher last week said the moratorium would be extended by 12 months to allow local councils and the state government to work together to better manage groundwater resources.

Since the ban was introduced, the Scenic Rim and Gold Coast councils have been working with Seqwater, the state government and the Queensland University of Technology to obtain better data around water use in the area as well as aquifers recharge rates.

“This data will increase transparency and inform an evidence-based approach to moving forward and managing any risk to these groundwater resources,” Mr Butcher said in a statement.

Decisions around new and existing water-bottling facilities are managed under the local government development application process, but groundwater in both Tamborine Mountain and Springbrook is not regulated at a state level, with no entitlement needed to take water.

In the Scenic Rim region, in which Tamborine Mountain lies, 88.3 megalitres were extracted by 15 commercial bores in 2019, much of it destined for bottling by companies like Coca-Cola Amatil.

In the Gold Coast council area, which includes Springbrook, 34.8 megalitres were taken in 2019.

In the Tweed Shire in northern NSW, there are 11 groundwater operations supplying the beverage industry. However, the council has been able to use local planning laws to stop new bottled water operators.

Fighting court appeals from rejected applicants have come at some financial cost to the council, however.

In related news, a draft state-wide strategy to improve the resilience of NSW’s water resources in coming decades is on public exhibition. 

The deadline for feedback is 28 March.