Springs of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) and other similar regional aquifer systems provide essential water flow to support unique ecological communities, ecological processes and cultural values. There are a number of regulatory tools designed to facilitate the protection of these values.
This presentation will provide an overview of the legal framework that seeks to regulate impacts on groundwater and springs in Australia, particularly from a federal level under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The will include a brief overview of the Australian regulatory framework, the known ecological values of spring ecosystems - listed and those that are not – and analysis of how the framework is operating in practice, with case study examples, and consideration of potential for improvements.
Twenty years on from the EPBC Act commencement, this presentation provides a reflection on the effectiveness and adequacy of the regulatory framework to manage impacts on these unique ecosystems. The two key challenges of focus will be the existing regulatory process, particularly focusing on its application where there is scientific uncertainty, and the framework for listing species and communities.
Recent examples of resource activities proposed in the vicinity of spring systems in Queensland, Australia, will be reviewed to better understand how the regulatory framework is operating in practice and to consider whether improvements may be implemented to more effectively manage the competing agendas of resource development and springs protection.