20 Dec 2012
Land access laws to be overhauled
by Mark Geritz, Ben Cansdale
Significant reforms to the land access and compensation regime in Queensland are proposed for 2013, which will impact the resource and agricultural sectors and their relationship with each other.
The Queensland Government has announced plans to overhaul the legal framework governing land access and compensation arrangements between resource companies and landholders.
The overhaul is to be implemented by a "Six Point Action Plan" that has been developed by the Government in response to the recommendations of the independent Land Access Review Panel.
The Action Plan is expected to include a range of legislative amendments and new guidelines delivered over the course of 2013.
The current Land Access and Compensation Framework in Queensland was progressively implemented from October 2010 and applies to all forms of resource authorities (excluding mining leases, which are subject to a separate regime under the Mineral Resources Act 1989).
Key features of the Framework include:
- a requirement that resource authority holders comply with a "Land Access Code";
- an entry notice requirement for "preliminary activities" (ie. activities with no, or only a minor, impact on landholders);
- a requirement that a conduct and compensation agreement (CCA) be entered into before a resource authority holder may access land to carry out "advanced activities" (subject to certain exceptions); and
- a negotiation and dispute resolution process for compensation liability.
An independent Land Access Review Panel was established in November 2011 to undertake a review of the Framework after 12 months of operation. In particular, the Panel was required to determine the extent to which the Framework had achieved its policy objectives and make recommendations for any improvements.
The Panel delivered its report to the Government on 27 February 2012, making 12 recommendations to amend the Framework. Public consultation on the report was opened on 19 July 2012 and closed on 27 July 2012.
Six Point Action Plan
The Action Plan identifies the following actions items that the Government will progress as a matter of priority:
Compensation and conduct:
Single form of ADR: Introduce a single form of alternative dispute resolution, independent of Government and integrated into the Land Court process.
CCA on title: The existence of a CCA to be noted on land title.
CCA opt-out option: Parties may agree to opt out of entering into a CCA, at the landholder's election (resource authority holders will remain liable for compensation and a written agreement of some form will still be required between the parties and noted on title).
Template CCAs: Development of template CCAs for mineral, coal and coal seam gas industries, in partnership with the resource and agricultural sectors.
Information sources: Review of various stakeholder information sources to provide a single, comprehensive and plain language resource for resource companies and landholders, including case studies and better explanations of parties' rights and obligations.
An Implementation Committee will be formed to oversee the implementation of the Action Plan. This Committee will be comprised of AgForce, Queensland Farmers' Federation, Queensland Resources Council, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Association of Mining and Exploration Companies and the newly formed GasFields Commission.
The Government has advised that the first four action items will be delivered by mid-2013. These will require legislative amendments and until the drafting of these amendments is made available, the actual scope and operation of these items will not be known.
The remaining action items are to be delivered by the end of 2013.
We will continue to monitor the progress of the Implementation Committee and the Six Point Action Plan, and provide further updates as developments arise.
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