by George Houen
|Photo taken by John Jenkyn on the night of Jan 12, 2015 of Origins gas flare 16 km away to the ENE. At the same time John took photos of a further 2 big flares going, Brentleigh to the ESE & Codie that is due west. Under the Common Provisions regulations this coal seam gas infrastructure could be constructed only 200 metres from your home.|
The M&E Resources (Common Provisions) Act brings massive, mostly adverse change to landholders’ rights concerning exploration and the objection and approval process. It does also bring some worthwhile streamlining and coordination changes between the resource Acts.
Understanding the practical effect of those numerous changes is not easy, even for practitioners who work with the resources legislation.
In Queensland a large proportion of the mineral and petroleum resources are located in highly productive, more closely settled agricultural and grazing land, so it is inevitable that resource activities cause a high degree of land use conflict.
It is the job of the State government, in authorising access to private land and controlling the exploitation of mineral and petroleum resources, to manage the resulting land use conflict. Fairness and minimal disruption and damage to the affected agricultural and grazing businesses must be the objective.
I believe this paper shows that the reforms have severely reduced the rights of landholders for the benefit of miners. Once landholders come face to face with the changes, I believe we will see open hostility and resistance to resource operators. I believe it would be prudent for the government to reconsider the changes so as to restore fairness and effective management of land use conflict.
All resource activities including CSG will be subject to the restricted land system.
- Prescribed activities are now prohibited on restricted land, whereas for 25 years since 1989 it has been entry to restricted land that was prohibited.
- Prescribed activities include anything conducted on the surface, or below the surface if it causes an impact such as subsidence. That seems to mean exploration crews or prospectors can drive or walk around restricted land and even camp on restricted land.
- Construction and operation of pipelines is exempt – this seems to mean a CSG operator could ignore the restriction and build and operate gas or water gathering lines through restricted land regardless.
- Water facilities and stockyards are no longer restricted land.
- Permanent buildings - and a buffer around them to be set by regulation - which are used for residence, school, church, childcare hospital or library will be restricted land (but see below re mining lease and petroleum lease applications).
- Land used for aquaculture, feedlot, piggery, poultry shed or cemetery is restricted land.
- A building used for business or other purposes which is not easily relocated and not able to coexist with resource activities is restricted land (I feel for anyone trying to interpret that).
- On a mining lease or petroleum lease application area, a building or land is only restricted if it was being used as at the date the lease application was lodged.
The new restricted land regime is complicated, inappropriate and ambiguous. It could lead to significant damage or loss through disturbance of stock and stress on landholders and their families and staff. Its complexity will baffle and frustrate exploration crews and landholders and give rise to disputes as they try to interpret it in their day to day operations.
Landholders should aim to convince explorers and prospectors to voluntarily remain bound by the original restricted land scheme – that is, use every reasonable means at their disposal to press every explorer entering for preliminary activities and every prospector to sign a brief agreement specifying:
- no entry within a 50 metre radius of any water points (whether artificial or natural); and
- no entry within a 50 metre radius of stockyards, mustering laneways or any other specific areas sensitive for stock management.
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|Broke, Hunter Valley, image sourced [here]|