The Australian Rainforest Conservation Society (ARCS) has vowed to continue fighting to prevent new or expanded commercial water take in the Springbrook and Mount Tamborine districts after it successfully negotiated conditions halving water take of a new water mining operator, Hoffmann Drilling Pty Ltd. 

The Queensland Planning and Environment Court on Friday (November 10) ordered Hoffmann Drilling’s permit be approved subject to extensive conditions, including halving water take to 8ML.  

The approval follows negotiations of the parties after the Planning and Environment Court hearing adjourned in March.    

Hoffmann Drilling’s commercial water mining licence is for an area adjacent to Springbrook National Park, a Gondwana World Heritage-listed area that includes groundwater-dependent ecosystems. The company plans to sell the water it extracts freely to the bottled water industry. 

As a result of ARCS’s four-year campaign, planning approval has been granted subject to strict conditions. These conditions include:  

  • An 8ML annual cap on water take, half the take originally proposed by Hoffmann Drilling. 
  • 12 months of baseline assessments of the state of the environment before pumping starts.  
  • Trigger points where pumping must cease entirely, such as where water stress is being demonstrated in the surrounding ecosystem.  
  • Comprehensive ongoing monitoring including: 
    • Telemetered groundwater level and stream flow 
    • Soil moisture monitoring 
    • Remote sensing of water stress in adjacent rainforests 
    • eDNA 
    • Flora and fauna surveys 
  • Restrictions on the number of truck movements to and from the site.

ARCS has been supported by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO), barristers James Houston and Dr Chris McGrath and independent expert opinion from Professor Matthew Currell, Dr Robert Kooyman, Professor Brendan Mackey, Dr Alan Chenoweth, Professor Betty Weiler and Dr Patrick Norman. 

ARCS Director Dr Keith Scott said: “While this is a sad decision for the delicate ecosystems of the Gondwana World Heritage listed area and Springbrook National Park, we hope the strong conditions imposed through our extensive negotiations will prevent serious environmental impacts. 

“This requires the Gold Coast City Council to take its enforcement role very seriously in holding this developer to every single condition – we will be watching like hawks. 

The Gondwana World Heritage listed area and Springbrook National Park are incredibly important and rare ecosystems.  

“We have dedicated our lives to their protection because we know how precious these ancient ecosystems are, and how vulnerable they are to multiple threats, including groundwater take and climate change.  

“Given the threat this development poses to species and communities protected under national environmental law, ARCS considers this development requires referral to the federal Environment Minister for assessment also prior to commencing activities.” 

EDO Managing Lawyer Revel Pointon said: “While the approval of this development permit is not the desired outcome for our client and all those seeking strong protection of this World Heritage-listed region and its species, we hope the conditions negotiated protect the ecosystem from excessive impacts. 

The EDO are proud to have assisted our client in their defence of this precious rainforest over many years.  

“This fight is not over. The EDO and ARCS stand with First Nations representatives and local communities to advocate to the Queensland Government for a permanent moratorium to stop new or expanded commercial water licences through Springbrook and Mount Tamborine, and a water licensing regime to better regulate existing operators. 

“Operators like Coca Cola are continuing to truck millions of litres of groundwater away from these precious and vulnerable ecosystems, with minimal conditions and seemingly minimal enforcement by local governments.  

“It’s time the Queensland Government took action to protect the remaining outstanding universal values we are blessed to still have in southeast Queensland by putting a stop to commercial groundwater take through Springbrook and Mount Tamborine.” 

MEDIA CONTACT: James Tremain | 0419 272 254