ENVIRONMENTAL safeguards may be expanded to include the Georgina, Diamantina and Cooper catchments in Queensland under proposed changes to the Lake Eyre Basin management plan.
It is feared the move will lock up vast tracts of prime mining and agricultural land, stifling growth and economic opportunities in remote communities.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch announced the review on December 20, saying consultation would be undertaken with stakeholders to ensure a balance between the health of rivers and floodplains, and the cultural, social and economic priorities of the region.
She said the proposed framework would increase protections for streams and floodplains in the Queensland section of the Lake Eyre Basin, yet failed to outline the proposed changes.
The timing of the consultation and limited details has caused angst for pastoralists and affected communities.
A Department of Environment and Science spokeswoman said DES had undertaken targeted consultation in 2018 and 2019 with First Nations groups, the scientific community, the conservation sector and local governments through the Remote Area Planning and Development Board.
She said further stakeholders had been invited to make submissions on behalf of interested community members.
However, Diamantina Shire Council Mayor and RAPAD director Geoff Morton said details about proposed changes were scant.
As a fourth-generation grazier at Roseberth Station, Cr Morton is lobbying for the consultation period to be extended until at least the end of February to allow proper discussion.
Cr Morton said providing a balance between protecting the rivers and regional development was vital.
"Diamantina Shire is pro development, to a reasonable extent. We look hungrily east of us to see what the petroleum industry has done in the Cooper Basin and how successfully they have looked after the environment there. It has proven to be very sustainable and we would hate to see anything that might dampen that," he said.
"Everybody in the basin is very much in agreeance that we have to allow some development to help sustain the communities."
Chairman of organic beef marketing company OBE Organic and Birdsville grazier David Brook said the lack of clarity around the consultation process was concerning.
"Without a published discussion paper or simple facts about the consultation process, we've had to rely on the bush telegraph - we hope outback graziers don't have to resort to the galah session as a means to make a meaningful contribution," he said.
AgForce also slammed the process, saying it would undertake its own consultation for interested parties otherwise excluded.
Stand Up for Regional Queensland program manager Andrew Freeman said the process appeared to be designed to exclude views they didn't want to hear.
"The state government's plan could lock up huge tracts of inland Queensland from agricultural or resource developments, which may have a huge impact on the very survival of farming families, mine workers... and others across the Channel Country," he said.
Mr Freeman said AgForce would hold one-on-one meetings, public sessions and accept and collate written submissions to their website over the next three weeks.
DES requested feedback by January 24, but said extra time could be granted.