Saturday, 16 November 2013

PRA: November newsletter

Property Rights issues keep on coming thick and
fast. The length of time between newsletters isn't an indication that nothing has been happening rather just how busy the board has been.

Some of the presentations from this last conference are now available on YouTube (links below) with a few more in the process of being edited and will be available soon.

Ashley McKay - 10 years PRA history and achievements
Troy Rowling - How do we get the message across in the city press?
Coal Seam Gas

MLA through RIRDC has a research paper available which discusses co-existence. If anything the paper bears out the claims of our members that negotiating with the various bodies who may want to share your land is time consuming and requires a great deal of personal research. Look at point 1 and how many fields a landowner is advised to become an instant expert in. I cannot disagree. Obtain specialist advice but relying on specialists who do not come with recommendations leaves one open to charlatans. There is no easy road.

These are just a couple of snippets from the paper.
It is likely that a new land use will interfere with the efficient operation of existing farm enterprises and as a consequence could increase production costs and/or lower farm revenue. Accommodation of the new land use may also require a significant time commitment by the landholder. Changes in farm profitability and associated uncertainty could translate into changes in agricultural land values and increased competition for resources, such as water, from the new land use. Increased traffic through or around a property will also increase biosecurity risk, which will need to be addressed
A Checklist of Negotiation Processes for Landholders
1. Inform yourself of all the aspects of the process in which you are involved, such as legal, agronomic, hydrological, biosecurity, etc.

6. Negotiation will take significant time. Previous experience has shown that negotiations for a single

property can take up to 500 hours, with over 100 hours directly interacting with the new land use

proponent in the first six months.

7. Comprehensive documentation is required throughout the negotiation process, including proposals and personnel change and information that may be provided by the new land use proponent e.g. in one situation six sites on a property that were initially discussed ended up being 42.

8. The new land use proponent may be large and unwieldy and routinely turnover staff – do not assume that they all know what is going on at any one time. Insist on an organisational chart and ensure you are working with someone senior enough to make decisions.

9. Ensure there are compensation provisions built into agreements for any change in scope or

construction timetable
The whole paper can be accessed with the following link.

With the plethora of CSG wells, mines and associated infrastructure moving at such a fast speed any cracks in the legislation are becoming visible.

Planning Policy changes
In an upheaval of State planning policy the Qld Govt in a short period of time reviewed, amended and drafted new planning instruments. PRA wrote four separate submissions to four separate planning policies. We found ourselves commenting on draft amendments with various assurances that may mean very little because higher ranked planning policy had yet to be finalised. The drafts up for comment by submission contained repetitive terminology that was not defined and could be made to mean whatever. Although the policies claimed that agriculture was important, mining and coal seam gas activity was given a get out of jail card at every corner with phrases like, “no reasonable alternative.”

Instead of creating planning policy that would stand the test of time and be broad enough to cover all future circumstances the policies made heavy reference to coal seam gas and mining not in an effort to create a level playing field, but in a blatant effort to drive a mine truck or CSG drilling rig through the many loopholes.
The still yet to be defined co-existence was used as a cornerstone but there appears to be no circumstance where coexistence is not possible but rather agriculture has to fit in with the resource sector. The planning policies are creating new land classifications that have the effect of creating unnecessary complexity, confusion and watering down of farmer’s rights.

All agriculture based organisations addressed in detail the many points that were of concern in the submission processes only to be largely ignored. The universal dissatisfaction with the Qld government’s final position on these planning policies is evident in the following newspaper article: Farm 'protection' blasted.

Recent Property Rights cases
Joanne has been giving support via phone calls to a West Australian landowner who successfully defended a prosecution brought on by the WA Dept of environment & conservation (DEC). The case gained the interest of the IPA who issued the following media release: The case of Peter Swift will shock you

The case of the well reported locked gate on the access road to a Georgetown property is a case in point where all government departments seemed powerless to do anything about it in a timely manner. If you haven’t caught up with this case the locked gate wasn’t a landowner locking out a miner rather it was a miner who constructed a fence across an access road to a Georgetown cattle station. No government department was able to detect any illegal act so, it seems, were powerless to do anything. Since the Beef Central article, Mining company fences off NW Qld property, was written, PRA was able to direct the landowner to good legal advice. The case is still ongoing.
A landowner in Southern Queensland appealed to PRA for help in what is one of the worst abuses of property rights we have seen. We were only called in at 1 minute to midnight & were unable to achieve a lot due to some poor legal advice earlier in the case history and, left unguided, a couple of unfortunate decisions by the landowners. The agreement reached included a confidentiality clause. This case highlights that abuse of power perpetuated by quasi government corporations and the importance of obtaining specialist legal advice.

Open mineral exploration holes
Dale has taken a position on the committee of the Basin Sustainability Alliance. BSA works only in the area of coal seam gas and its position is very close to that of PRA.
Dale is giving support to a fellow committee member, water driller Ian Hansen, in his concerns about the many thousands poorly decommissioned exploration holes that could become pathways if a gasfield is constructed in the same locality and the coal measures are depressurised by removing water to allow the gas to travel.

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