In late 2011 the Queensland State Government of Australia declared the Cooper Creek Basin in South West Queensland to be a Wild River Area under the Wild River Act 2005. The Wild River Area covers a significant proportion of Santos' current tenements and future development interests in the area.
The Wild Rivers Declaration is a highly prescriptive regulatory regime that sets out significant restrictions which would detrimentally impact on existing operations and future oil and gas development opportunities, including emerging coal seam and shale gas prospects in the proposed declaration area. It includes general prohibitions on certain activities across extensive areas of channel country and the imposition of setbacks for activities in proximity to watercourses.
The issue first arose in late 2010 when the Queensland Government indicated its intent to declare the Cooper Creek Basin as a Wild River through its issue of a Declaration Proposal. During the 12 month consultation period that followed, Santos engaged with the Queensland Government regulators and Ministers to assist the Government to make a Wild Rivers Declaration that achieves a balance between protecting the natural values of the Cooper Creek and allowing the continuation of the sustainable development of the petroleum resources within the Cooper and Eromanga Basins.
The paper will provide insight into Santos' experience in taking a lead role in responding to the significant new legislative regime proposed by Government. Key insights include the need for industry tobe proactive and take a role in educating the Government on the industry's operations andthe changes required to ensure compliance with the new regulatory requirements. It will also discuss broadlythe challenges associated with the changing regulatory environment including the role that politics can play and observes that we should continue to expect a ‘Wild' ride whenparticipating in thelegislative developmentprocess.
The significance of the Declaration is that the restrictions for petroleum activities imposed in the Cooper Creek Basin Wild Rivers Declaration may be imposed upon all Wild Rivers areas in Queensland. In addition, other Australian state governments are watching the implementation of Wild Rivers' legislation in Queensland and are considering the need for similar regulatory regimes in their jurisdictions.