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Nelligan, F, 2015 –– A critique and proposed enhancement of the Queensland approval process for large-scale agricultural developments: The Etheridge Integrated Agricultural Project case study

Project overviewFrances Nelligan

Just prior to commencing my final project, the federal government released their Green Paper on Developing Northern Australia. One focus was the opportunity to invest in new agricultural developments in northern Australia in order to increase the country’s agricultural production to meet the growing global food demand. One project that was specifically mentioned was the Etheridge Integrated Agricultural Project (EIAP), a 65,000 hectare irrigated agriculture development proposed for the Gilbert River catchment in north Queensland.

My final project was a desktop study to review the federal and Queensland governments’ approval processes for large-scale agriculture projects in an effort to identify areas in which the processes could be improved, using the EIAP as a case study.

The outcome of my project was an enhanced approval process for large-scale agricultural projects such as the EIAP. The enhanced process includes four key additions to the current process, which are:

  • engagement of an approval panel to review and approve the proposed development
  • engagement of an independent scientific panel to review and approve the proposed development
  • inclusion of a mandatory requirement for the project proponent to develop a project-specific (but nationally aligned) monitoring program, and
  • inclusion of a separate approval process for water allocations.

Since the change of Queensland Government in early 2015, the approval process for the EIAP, which is currently underway, has been altered to include the review of a scientific panel.

The best part of my final project was the fact that I had complete ownership and control over all aspects: 
I selected the topic, developed the project goal and methodology, and did the work. I was able to focus the project on something that I was passionate about. My project focus at the start of the process was quite different to how it looked at the end, and I really enjoyed seeing my project develop and change as I got further into the research and gained more knowledge and a deeper understanding of my topic. It was also rewarding to focus my project on a real-world issue that was receiving media attention during my study.


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