Landholders will have the right to protect their key farm infrastructure from mining and community members will have their objection rights restored under legislation introduced to State Parliament on Tuesday.
State Development Minister and Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham told Parliament that the bill fulfilled the government’s election commitment to reinstate broader communication objection rights. The first step was delivered in July last year around large-scale mining projects assessed through the Coordinator-General.
“The introduction of the Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 demonstrates the Palaszczuk Government has listened to all stakeholders and taken decisive action,” he said.
“The legislative amendments will give landholders the protection they want for their agricultural infrastructure like stockyards, bores and artesian wells.
“It will also restore the community’s right to have their say on mining lease and environmental authority applications for projects that have not gone through an Environmental Impact Statement process.
“Our legislative changes in July last year restored community rights in relation to large projects that have been through a Coordinator-General’s EIS process. Today’s bill completes our commitment.”
Dr Lynham said the Queensland Land Court would also have the power to strike out any objections that are frivolous or vexatious, an abuse of the court’s process or outside the court’s jurisdiction.
“The Bill also clarifies how the overlapping tenure framework for coal and coal seam gas, addressing resources sector’s concerns,” he said.
“This legislation represents another important step towards restoring the balance between landholders, the community and the resources sector in Queensland,” he said.
The Bill allows for:
- a protection zone of a minimum 50 metres around principal stockyards, bores and artesian wells, dams and artificial water storages connected to a water supply.
- mine proponents to again have to place public notices in newspapers about proposed mining projects
- any landholder to be able to lodge an objection, for example, a landholder downstream from a proposed mine on a river
A step backwards
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies CEO Simon Bennison said the news is a “retrograde step” for the Queensland resources industry.
“While the introduction of the Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 to Parliament today is being couched as a fulfilled election promise, it will simply further overload the Land Court which is already serving the needs of the anti-development groups,” Mr Bennison said.
“Without major improvements to the Land Court and administrative processes, the amendments presented today will delay projects which create jobs and opportunities for regional Queensland communities and revenue streams for the Government.
“It is not just mineral exploration or mining companies that are affected by these amendments. Landholders across Queensland will be thrown into uncertainty as they wait for court processes to slowly grind through more and more claims.
“This is a significant step backwards for the State and a Government that keeps claiming to want to drive jobs and opportunities. The increased uncertainty and delays will deter investment from Queensland.”
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the proposed laws should be urgently followed by action to reduce lengthy court cases and project delays.
“While industry understands the government has delivered on its election promise, we would like to remind the government that green activist groups are abusing the current system to push their ‘delay and disrupt’ agenda by keeping projects tied up in court,” Mr Roche said.
“The Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham himself is on the record acknowledging that ‘everyone deserves their day in court, but not four years in court.’
“The onus is now on the state government to get on with the business of reforming Land Court processes dealing with objections to mining leases and environmental authorities.
“This is an urgent matter not just for the projects suffering under crippling delay costs but also for the landholders who continue living with uncertainty as weeks turn into years.”