New research shows existing oil and gas activity threatens globally significant Lake Eyre Basin river system

The Western Rivers Alliance is calling on the Palaszczuk government to ban all oil and gas mining in the region after publication of the landmark study in the international journal, Marine and Freshwater Research.


  • This is the first time peer-reviewed research has investigated the distribution and impact of oil and gas production across the floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin.
  • The study was published in the international journal Marine and Freshwater Research and undertaken by researchers from the University of New South Wales, including lead author Professor Richard Kingsford (Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW).
  • Researchers found that roads built to support oil and gas mining were impacting natural flooding regimes and fragmenting the Channel Country floodplains.
  • The research raises concern that stored wastewater is intermingling with natural flood water and risks polluting nationally and internationally recognised wetlands.
  • The research found that 831 oil and gas wells have already been drilled into the Lake Eyre Basin’s rivers and floodplains in the Channel Country of Queensland and South Australia.
  • Read the full journal article here.

Ken Griffiths from Hayfield Station near Jundah is a fifth-generation Channel Country grazier. “These rivers are our lifeblood,” Ken said. 

“People’s livelihoods depend on the floods flowing unimpeded across the floodplains and we need the water to remain pristine to uphold our reputation as producing some of the cleanest and greenest beef in the world,” Ken said.

Ken says the study’s findings that oil and gas infrastructure encroaching on Channel Country floodplains is threatening water flow and water quality came as no surprise.  

“This research really just confirms what people in the Channel Country have known for years,” said Ken. “Allowing industrial developments like oil and gas mining on the floodplains is just madness.” 

Windorah local and Mithaka Elder Uncle George Gorringe agrees: “I’ve worked on roads for oil and gas companies and local councils across the region for over 30 years – I’ve seen the impact that a single road can have completely cutting off the flood flows.” 

“What people need to realise is that the Channel Country is unique – there’s nowhere else like it on Earth,” Uncle George said.

Ken and Uncle George say that they have been raising their concerns with the Queensland and federal governments for years but that their concerns appear to have been falling on deaf ears. 

“It’s my hope that this research will force the Queensland Government to finally sit up and listen. Oil and gas mining needs to be banned from the rivers and floodplains of the Channel Country,” Ken said.

Local graziers, Traditional Owners, and conservation advocates have been working together through the Western Rivers Alliance to urge the Queensland Government to strengthen existing protections for the Lake Eyre Basin rivers and floodplains to include a ban on oil and gas mining*. 

Western Rivers Alliance Coordinator Riley Rocco said: “The Palaszczuk Labor government has gone to every election since 2015 committing to strengthen protections for Lake Eyre Basin rivers and floodplains – but seven years on, we are still waiting.”

Grazier Ken Griffiths says his patience is wearing thin. “My biggest concern is the Queensland Government will make a few tweaks around the edges and try to sell it as ‘job done’ but our livelihoods are not safe until oil and gas is kept completely out of the rivers and flood country.”

Western Rivers Alliance Coordinator Riley Rocco agrees that clear prohibitions are needed. “The evidence is clear – it’s not only future unconventional gas fracking which is threatening the Lake Eyre Basin river system – existing oil and gas is already having an impact and it’s getting worse.”

“We need the Queensland Government to act now to protect this national and global icon by banning all oil and gas mining in rivers and floodplains,” Riley said. 

*The Lake Eyre Basin’s rivers and floodplains in Queensland are already recognised as an area of strategic environmental importance under the Regional Planning Interests Act with bans on large-scale irrigation and open cut mining- however oil and gas mining is permitted.