21 Mar 2014

Regional Planning Interests Bill passed

The Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 was passed last night by the Queensland Parliament and is expected to commence on a date to be proclaimed.

The new law will have significant implications for the resources industry as it creates a new approval requirement for resource activities and certain "regulated activities" carried out in identified areas of regional interest.

How will the Act be different to the Bill?

Over 100 amendments were made to the Bill during its consideration in detail. In particular:

  • the exemption for pre-existing resource activities (clause 24 of the Bill) has been amended so that it applies where, immediately before land becomes land in an area of regional interest, a resource activity may be carried out lawfully the land. An activity may be lawfully carried out on land if it can be carried out under a resource authority or environmental authority (EA) and without the need for any further authority or approval relating to the location, nature or extent of the expected surface impacts of the activity (whether required under an Act or a condition of the resource authority or EA). The policy intent is to exempt activities lawfully operating before an area was declared an area of regional interest;
  • a new exemption has been inserted for pre-existing regulated activities;
  • the exemption applicable where there is agreement with the landowner (clause 22 of the Bill) was amended so that it applies to both priority agricultural areas (PAAs) and strategic cropping areas (SCAs). Clause 22(3) was amended to clarify when a resource activity has an impact on land in a PAA or SCA;
  • the exemption for activities carried out for less than one year (clause 23 of the Bill) has been modified but was not broadened to two years, despite the recommendation made in the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee's report on the Bill;
  • new transitional provisions have been inserted for resource activities in SCAs;
  • the persons who may appeal a regional interest decision were not amended. Appeal rights will still be available to the applicant, the owner of the land and an "affected land owner";
  • an appeal will not automatically stay the operation of a regional interest decision. However, the court may decide to stay the operation of the decision;
  • the approval required under the Bill (previously a "regional interests authority") is now a "regional interests development approval" to more closely align with the concept of a development approval under planning legislation, and the approval attaches to land and binds successors in title;
  • a new process for amending a regional interests development approval has been included.

Next steps

An exposure draft regulation has been released for consultation. The Deputy Premier indicated that consultation would be undertaken on the draft regulation for a period of 60 days. The draft regulation contains the assessment criteria for applications and prescribes the circumstances when applications have to be notified, as well as timeframes under the Act.

Before commencement, those with current and proposed resource operations should review the legislation, in particular the exemptions and transitional provisions, to ascertain whether steps need to be taken to authorise their activities in accordance with the legislation.

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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.