Lawyers from the EDO are going to the Queensland Planning and Environment Court to defend the Springbrook World Heritage Area from groundwater mining, which could see 16 million litres of water a year taken from the ecosystem. 

The EDO is representing the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society (ARCS) in their fight to protect the Springbrook’s World Heritage rainforest, waterfalls and wildlife. 

The proposal to mine World Heritage water at Springbrook 

In 2019 a water mining company, Hoffmann Drilling, applied to the Gold Coast City Council to mine 16 million litres of water per year to be bottled and sold as ‘spring water.’ 

The proposed bore site is on Repeater Station Road, less than 400 metres from the Springbrook National Park section of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. 

In December 2019, the Council refused the application and a month later Hoffmann Drilling filed an appeal in the Queensland Planning and Environment Court. 

Several concerned Springbrook residents along with the Gecko Environment Council and the ARCS joined the appeal as co-respondents.  

World Heritage waterfalls and wildlife under threat 

Springbrook is a World Heritage listed National Park in South-East Queensland. It is part of the ancient Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, and home to the iconic Twin Falls waterfall and the Natural Bridge, a popular viewing site for one of Australia’s largest population of glow worms. It is a globally important rainforest ecosystem and locally treasured. 

The EDO and barrister Dr Chris McGrath will argue that the proposed water mine will impact groundwater availability leading to adverse impacts on ecology, tourism, amenity and World Heritage. 

If it goes ahead, the development could reduce the flow of water into streams that feed major attractions in the World Heritage Area, including Twin Falls and the Natural Bridge.  

Rainforests need water. With the climate getting hotter and drier, the impacts of extracting groundwater will be further exacerbated. This water is a safety net for the future of Springbrook’s native animals and plants. 

Extracting water from the aquifer could have devastating impacts on the local ecology of the area, including to the critically endangered smooth scrub turpentine, the endangered ravine orchid and the near threatened Albert’s lyrebird, all found within 1 km of the proposed site.  

The cascade treefrog, pouched frog and masked mountain frog are also threatened by this development; these species only inhabit South East Queensland and Northern NSW. 

Despite a moratorium on water mining the developers are forging ahead  

The Queensland Government has recognised that water mining is a threat to the area, having introduced a moratorium  on groundwater extraction for Springbrook and Mount Tamborine. Initially a 12-month moratorium, the Queensland Government recently extended it while groundwater extraction in the area is reviewed further. This means that currently no new groundwater bores can be created. However, Hoffman Drilling‘s application, which was refused by Council, was made prior to the moratorium being in place. 

It’s unfathomable that in 2021 we are fighting to stop the lifeblood of an ancient World Heritage site from being turned into plastic bottles of water. 

Our lawyers, working with barrister Dr Chris McGrath, are in Court on behalf of our client, the Australian Rainforest Conservation Society, to defend Springbrook. 

On behalf of our clients in the local community, and future generations of Australians, we are working on the strongest, most robust legal defence possible. 

EDO lawyers appeared in Court on 14 April 2021 for our client in a review of this matter, with a further review being scheduled for mid-May. The trial is expected to be scheduled for the coming months.  

We acknowledge the First Nations of the country of this water take, and the First Nations of all countries, which would be impacted downstream from this water mining activity, and pay our respects to their elders past and present. 

The solicitor on record in this case is Revel Pointon, working with Elanor Fenge