NGWS Public Submissions Guide
The Federal Government is seeking public comments via this survey on whether Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme (NGWS) will be assessed as a “controlled action” under our national environmental law, the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act. The NGWS is a pipeline Adani is proposing to build to pump 12.5 billion litres of water from the Suttor river each year to wash coal and suppress dust on its mine site.
Writing your submission
The survey asks if you consider the NGWS a “controlled action”. You should answer yes. This means that you think the impacts of Adani's NGWS should be assessed under Federal environment laws.
- You can only enter 500 words into section 4 - “Provide reasons for why you believe this is/is not a controlled action.” Outline your key points here - there is a list of key points below.
- If you have more to say, you can attach up to five documents, so you may like to write your submission from scratch as a word doc or pdf and attach it with your 500 word summary along with any other supporting information.
Key Points for submissions
It’s likely that the Minister will determine the project is a controlled action requiring assessment and take on the advice of the Federal Court that water impacts need to be assessed through the water trigger. However that assessment may not conclude that there will be significant impacts on water resources, as Adani are claiming. It is important that public comments put forward evidence of significant impacts and highlight Adani’s failure to recognise the potential for significant impacts which it thinks do not need to be assessed.
The following issues could be raised as relevant to the potential environmental impacts of the NGWS:
- Significant impacts on water resources. Australia’s ecologically sensitive, dry inland environments, and the farmers and other water users that rely on them, are dependent on water obtained during high rainfall events to replenish. Adani’s application states the NGWS will not have a significant impact on water resources, despite enabling the company to take up to 12.5 billion litres of water per year. However, Adani has been shown to consistently underestimate the environmental impacts of its mining operations and its statements should not be accepted at face-value. The Environment Minister must require Adani to complete a full environmental impact assessment that considers the impact of its water pipeline on Queensland’s river systems and wetlands, including the Scartwater Lagoon.
- Follow the advice of the Federal Court to apply the water trigger. The Federal Court recently ruled the Minister made an error of law when not applying the water trigger to the previous assessment of Adani’s North Galilee Water Scheme. The Federal Government and Adani had argued the water trigger assessment was not needed because the NGWS pipeline was not itself a coal mining development. The Federal Court determined that reasoning was an error and the water trigger should apply. Adani says the water trigger does not need to be applied. The Minister must follow the advice of the Federal Court and apply the water trigger to the assessment of the NGWS so the impacts on Queensland’s water are understood and properly assessed.
- Full impacts of the NGWS must be considered. Adani’s application notes the potential for the NGWS to be used by other coal mines in the Galilee Basin, but does not specify the likely volume of water take nor provide any other information. The NGWS could enable multiple mines to take many billions of litres of scarce water to wash coal - leaving behind a toxic legacy. Adani must be required to specify the full scale of the NGWS and then to complete an environmental impact assessment that considers all of the adverse impacts of the likely peak water extraction on the Suttor River. Further, the impact of surface water extraction on recharge to interconnected groundwater aquifers should also be assessed given the proximity of the project to Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems in the Belyando catchment. Adani should not be permitted to carve up the project, referring it in a piecemeal way to avoid assessment of the full scale of the project.
Adani has failed to address shortcomings identified by expert hydrologist. The Australian Conservation Foundation submission to the previous assessment process in 2019 is published here. ACF’s submission contains an independent expert report by Flinders University Hydrologist Dr. Adrian Werner that assesses Adani’s referral documents and concludes that they require modifications to be able to properly assess the impact of the NGWS on the Suttor River. Specifically, Dr Werner’s report finds that Adani’s assessment focuses on the effect of the NGWS on peak flood events and does not properly address impacts on smaller river flows. This means Adani’s assessment documentation does not adequately prove that there will not be a significant impact on water resources. Adani’s documents referring the NGWS for assessment fail to address shortcomings identified by Dr. Werner. Therefore Dr. Werner's report and the content of ACF’s submission is still relevant for the current assessment and could be referenced in your public comments.
- Impacts on threatened species. Adani’s application notes the NGWS will impact on threatened species including the Ornamental Snake, Squatter Pigeon, Black-Throated Finch, Koala and Waxy Cabbage Palm but states the impacts are “unlikely to be significant”. The Minister must require detailed population and habitat surveys to be completed by Adani and considered in a full environmental impact assessment.
Downstream impacts on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area. Adani’s application states that the proposed action will have no impact on the Great Barrier Reef. However, the Suttor River feeds the Burdekin River. The Burdekin sub-catchment is a Great Barrier Reef catchment. Recent research has identified that the Burdekin River is one of just four rivers that are most likely to affect water quality on the Great Barrier Reef. Given the sensitivity of the Great Barrier Reef to changes in water quality, the proposed action must be assessed via a full environmental impact assessment to identify and minimise downstream impacts.
- Adani’s environmental compliance history. Adani Group companies have a long track-record of non-compliance with environmental laws. Adani was found guilty of providing the Queensland government false and misleading information relating to land clearing on the Carmichael coal mine and received a criminal conviction. Adani has breached Federal environmental approval conditions seven times and was fined by the Queensland government for releasing polluted water into sensitive wetlands next to its Abbot Point coal port.. The Environment Minister should use her discretion to closely scrutinise this history as relevant to the proponent of the NGWS.