Water everywhere but not a drop to spare

Commercial water extraction in Queensland must comply with the provisions of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld). The Act coordinates and integrates planning at local, regional and state levels. Under the Act, commercial water extraction activities must comply with the relevant Local Government Planning Scheme.

Before water can be taken, an assessment must be made and approval must be granted for any works which takes or interferes with water. The approval is given in the form of a development permit.

In Gillion Pty Ltd v Scenic Rim Regional Council & Ors [2014] QCA 21, Gillion Pty Ltd, had sought a development permit from the Scenic Rim Regional Council for a Material Change of Use to undertake commercial water extraction at Mt Tamborine.

When the application was refused by the Council, Gillion Pty Ltd appealed to the Planning and Environment Court. The primary judge found that there was a significant conflict between the proposed use of the land and the Beaudesert Shire Planning Scheme 2007 and the appeal was dismissed. Gillion Pty Ltd appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the primary judge erred in law.

Margaret McMurdo P found that there was no error of law by the primary judge. Fraser JA wrote a detailed analysis of the Planning Scheme as it applied to commercial groundwater extraction. He said that “Commercial Groundwater Extraction does not comply with the specific outcomes of the Tamborine Mountain Zone Code” and he concluded that the primary judge did not make any error in law. Morrison JA agreed with the reasons of Justice Fraser. The appeal was dismissed.

This case shows that businesses involved in the commercial water extraction industry must ensure that they comply with the relevant Local Government Planning Scheme that applies to the location of their water extraction facility.