CSG: country solicitor vindicated over occupier’s rights concerns

James Nason, 16/10/2012

Country solicitor Peter Shannon, accused of scaremongering by groups aligned with the coal seam gas industry when he suggested that recent changes to Queensland legislation had undermined landholder rights to compensation from CSG impacts, has had his concerns vindicated.

The Queensland Government has pledged to act swiftly to make further amendments to the recently amended Petroleum and Gas Act (2004) to clarify which parties are entitled to compensation when impacted by CSG developments.

It follows concerns raised by Mr Shannon that amendments made to the definition of the word ‘occupier’ in the P&G Act in August had effectively stripped family trusts, partnerships and companies of their right negotiate for compensation when affected by CSG industry developments.

He said gas companies were already taking the view in private consultations that partnerships and trusts would no longer be treated as occupiers by them under the new definition of occupier, whereas they had been treated as such under the previous definition.

Mr Shannon’s concerns were first highlighted on Beef Central, and led to him being accused of “scare mongering” by Angus Adnam, the chairman of a board aligned to coal seam gas industry service company the Flinders Group.

However Mr Shannon stood by his interpretation and his view was supported by rural landholder and community representative group the Basin Sustainability Alliance, which called on the Queensland Government to provide urgent clarity on the issue.

The Queensland Government has since sought legal advice in relation to the concerns identified and raised by Mr Shannon.

In a statement issued to the media this morning, Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said the State Government’s view is that the existing definition of occupier is “sufficiently broad” to ensure all parties with a legitimate business interest in land are compensated for the potential and realised impacts of resource-related activities.

However, he acknowledged that enough doubt remains to require further changes to the Act to clarify compensation entitlements.

“I acknowledge that this definition needs to capture a range of unique circumstances in agriculture where family businesses operate under complicated ownership structures such as trusts and partnerships, and that those businesses are considered under existing conduct and compensation agreements.

“Therefore to remove any doubt arising from differing legal interpretations of the Act, and provide certainty to landholders and the resources sector, the Government will move swiftly to amend the definition.

“The State Government will draft amendments to clarify the parties eligible for compensation as a result of CSG and resource activity.

“These amendments are set to be introduced to Parliament by the end of this year.”

'Pleased the Government has acted'

Mr Shannon welcomed the Government’s decision to tighten up the definition and to provide further clarity on compensation entitlements.

“We are very pleased that after the media shone a light on these concerns, the government has taken the time to consider and act upon them,” Mr Shannon said. 

“It will give landholders heart that this government is prepared to listen.”

Mr Shannon, co-principal of Shannon Donaldson Province Lawyers, Dalby, said that the landholder perspective on several issues needed to be brought to the fore to ensure the balance between CSG company rights and landholder protections was right.

“The big ticket items are obvious – the devil however is often in the legal detail, the fine print or the long term implications of these agreements.

“We would hope in future that when concerns are raised by landholder lawyers in relation to the protection of landholders rights that rather than being simply dismissed by industry as scare mongering, or attempts made to marginalise landholder lawyers, a genuine effort is made to address the concerns raised – as it appears is intended here, and for which we are grateful.

“There are very important legal issues to be considered from a Landholder perspective and they are constantly unfolding in this new regime.” 


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