Access to Farming Land Backed by an "Enforcement Team"
In the face of calls for a moratorium on coal and gas mining on the Darling Downs, and threats from landholders that they'll lock their gates to keep mining companies out, the Premier today announced the formation of what she calls an "enforcement unit". The 36-member enforcement unit is a supposed bid to allay some of the farmer and environmental concerns surrounding the coal seam gas industry. In effect, its role will be to enforce the new Land Access Laws, which carry a fine of up to $50,000 to any farmer who denies entry to a mining company.
The Queensland Government ran a series of meetings across southern Queensland last week to explain the new Land Access laws, which are to come into force soon. According to the introduction to the new Land Access Code:
The Queensland Government is committed to balancing the interests of the agricultural and resource sectors to address issues related to land access for resource exploration and development. Good relationships between these groups, assisted by adequate consultation and negotiation, will improve transparency, equity and cooperation across the sectors involved and creates a more level playing field for all.
At the meeting in Dalby on Tuesday, it soon became apparent just how 'balanced' the interests of the agricultural and resource sectors now are. So much so in fact, that Agforce has pulled out of the Queensland Government's Land Access Working Group after three years of work, having lost confidence in the Government's ability to deliver a transparent, consistent and equitable outcome.
The New Access Laws
A short summary (courtesy of Friends of Felton):
If a landholder refuses entry to a mining company, there is a mandatory negotiation period. If no agreement is reached within 40 days, the company can refer the case to the Land Court. Once the matter has been referred to the Land Court, the mining company has the right of entry.
To make matters worse:
The landholder is permitted to have a lawyer present during negotiations only with the permission of the mining company
This is in spite of the 'Important Note' on page 3 of the Guide to Queensland's new land access laws which states:
Parties are strongly urged to always obtain legal advice to assist with negotiations or developing agreements, and particularly before signing any document.
Obstruction of petroleum authority holder
It is an offence for anyone, without a reasonable excuse, to obstruct a resource authority holder, its staff or agents from entering or crossing land or from carrying out any mining or associated activities.
The offence is established under section 805 of the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, and defines 'obstruct' to include hindering or resisting. The offence for obstructing a petroleum authority holder carries a maximum penalty is 500 penalty units, or $50,000.
With these unjust laws now backed by an enforcement unit, is it any wonder that landholders across the state are taking the drastic step of locking their gates to mining companies.
For more information:
- Download the Landholder Guides to the New Land Access Laws here.
- Read Section 805 of the Petroleum and Gas Act here
- Read the article "Queensland Government announces gas enforcement team" on the ABC news website