31 Jan 2013

Major reforms to Queensland's resources legislation proposed

by Andrew Smith, Ben Cansdale

The Queensland Government is proposing to replace the five current Acts with a single "Common Resources Act" with multiple resource-specific regulations.

The Queensland Government is proposing that, by 2016, a new "Common Resources Act" be developed to replace the State's current resources legislation: the Mineral Resources Act 1989, the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, the Petroleum Act 1923, the Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009 and the Geothermal Energy Act 2010.

An industry discussion paper has been released by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines to peak industry bodies and stakeholders that outlines the Government's proposal and its preferred process for implementing the reform.

As the Government claims, this stands to be the most significant reform to Queensland's resources legislation in over 150 years, and is aimed at harmonising the tenure processes and streamlining regulatory administration.

Background

The move to reform has been fuelled by the Newman Government's electoral promise to reduce red tape by 20% and the recent Streamlining Approvals Project that identified a number of benefits associated with harmonising the regulation of resource tenures.

The Government has identified Queensland's resources legislation as having become unnecessarily complex and inefficient as a result of having historically separate tenure regimes for minerals and petroleum, and cumulative amendments to legislation being made over time rather than genuine reform.

The Government undertook an analysis of similar mining jurisdictions to compare various models of tenure legislation, and concluded that a model adopting a single Act with multiple resource-specific regulations was the preferred reform approach.

Reform pathway

The Government proposes to deliver the legislative reform incrementally over the next 3 to 4 years, in the following stages:

  • Stage 1: Creation of a "Common Sections Act"

All existing common elements from the five current resources Acts would be transferred to a new Common Sections Act. This would include common sections dealing with royalties, security, dealings, registers and native title.

  • Stage 2: Other common non-permit related provisions

All "post-grant" related provisions would be reviewed with the aim of achieving commonality and transferred to the new Common Sections Act. These would include provisions dealing with compensation, ownership of assets, non-compliance, appeals, reporting and overlapping tenures.

  • Stage 3: Establishing common permit types

A common set of tenure types would be established in the new Common Sections Act, with transitional provisions for the automatic conversion of existing tenures to the new types. The discussion paper acknowledges that some tenure types are resource specific (eg. petroleum pipeline licences).

  • Stage 4: Developing resource-specific solutions

The remaining resource-specific provisions of the current Acts would be dealt with, either by new resource-specific sections created in the new Act or by resource-specific regulations. The health and safety provisions in the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 would be separated into its own legislation.

The Government is anticipating each stage will take approximately 1 year to complete. A new industry and government reference panel is to be established to manage the reform project, and will be supported by smaller working groups.

What's next?

The industry discussion paper invites submissions from peak industry bodies and stakeholders on the following:

  • the Government's vision of achieving a single common resources Act with multiple resource-specific regulations; and
  • the Government's proposal to incrementally and collaboratively deliver legislative reform over the next 3 to 4 years.

Submissions are due by 1 March 2013.

We will continue to monitor the progress of this reform project, and provide further updates as developments arise.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.