We write to draw to the attention of all landholders certain provisions of the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014 (Qld) (the Bill)presented to the Queensland Parliament by the Honourable Andrew Cripps on 5 June 2014.
The Bill forms part of the Modernising Queensland’s Resources Acts Program which proposes to replace the five (5) existing pieces of legislation (which govern the energy and resources sector) with a single, common resource Act. Whilst in principal we take no issue with what is trying to be achieved or many of the amendments (and some are good for landholders), there are some very concerning proposals including the following:
- Amendments to Restricted Land: At the moment a mining lease cannot be granted without the consent of a landholder over that part of their land that is within 100m laterally of their house and sheds or 50 laterally of their dams, bores, water troughs and stock yards. Also an explorer under and exploration permit for coal or minerals cannot enter such land without the consent of the landholder. The Bill proposes to very significantly alter the definition of restricted land and with it alter landholder rights to the point where landholders may lose altogether the protection currently offered by restricted land. In our view the amendments do not widen the protection offered by restricted land as suggested by some but very seriously erode the protections to the point where there is none. It will in many instances become just a question of compensation.
- Rights of Objection: If the Bill is passed, only those people who are classified as “affected persons” will be able to object to the granting of a mining lease. An “affected person” is limited to an owner of land the subject of the proposed mining lease; or an owner of land necessary for access to land the subject of the proposed mining lease; or the relevant local government. This means that neighbours and concerned citizens will not be able to lodge objections to the granting of a mining lease even if they are the one most affected and/or most able to object.
- Opt-Out Agreements: A new type of agreement is proposed for coal exploration and CSG affected landholders i.e. an “opt-out” agreement. These agreements will negate the requirement of resource company to enter into a conduct and compensation agreement or deferral agreement but not the obligation to compensate. This type of agreement will in our view necessitate landholders being hyper vigilant when approached by a resource company.
- Remediation of Bores: A person appointed by the Chief Executive can enter land and remediate a bore which emits gas beyond the lower flammability limit simply by providing a Notice that it wishes to do so. This could fundamentally alter the process of a negotiation for a Make Good Agreement under the Water Act 2000 (Qld).
The Bill also proposes to legislate by regulation – i.e. leave many crucial matters to be provided for in a regulation not in the legislation itself. The regulations have not yet been made and such a process is in our view highly undesirable. It leaves many extremely important issues to be decided by a process far less satisfactory than through our parliament.
We also draw Landholder’s attention to the first reading speech by the Honourable Andrew Cripps, which states that the goal of the Bill is to “optimise development and use of Queensland’s mineral and energy resources…”. After reviewing the Bill we cannot help but come to the conclusion that this has come at the expense of Landholders – something which the Government has continually “promised” that this legislation would not do.
We urge all landholders to review, consider and make appropriate submissions to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee by 30 June 2014 and otherwise voice their concerns on the Bill by that date. If they do not we fear the consequences now and in the land term for many could be dire.