Australia: Strategic cropping land – drawing the boundaries

Environment and Planning Insights
Last Updated: 26 July 2011
Article by Xavier McMahon and Kathryn Pacey

Most Read Contributor in Australia, November 2017

Key Points:
The question of how to resolve land-use competition between the agricultural, resource and development sectors is currently generating substantial public debate across the country, resulting in a range of different policy responses.

In Queensland, the Department of Environment and Resource Management ("DERM") released its Strategic Cropping Land ("SCL") framework almost a year ago. While no draft legislation or State Planning Policy has yet been released, recent announcements have included important information on how the framework is expected to look when it is implemented later this year.


"Protecting Queensland's strategic cropping land: a policy framework", released in August 2010, outlines the Queensland Government's approach to protecting strategic cropping land ("SCL"). The Government's policy is essentially that planning powers should be used to protect SCL from development that leads to its permanent alienation or diminished productivity.

Legislative and planning instruments to implement the policy are currently on the drawing board, being:

  • new SCL legislation, to address how SCL is identified and provide a process for assessing and deciding whether development can proceed on SCL;
  • amendments to existing resources legislation (including the Mineral Resources Act 1989 and Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004) to ensure that the new SCL legislation is considered in tenement assessment; and
  • a new State Planning Policy to guide planning and regulate the impacts of development under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.

State-wide and regional draft trigger maps have already been released.

Criteria for identifying strategic cropping land

The draft trigger maps are only a starting point for identifying SCL. Whether land qualifies as SCL will ultimately be determined by on-ground assessment against the SCL criteria.

In April 2011, draft SCL criteria were released by the Government, addressing matters such as the slope of the land, rockiness of the soil, soil depth and salinity. The criteria also set minimum size limits which must be met in order for land to qualify as SCL. The sizes vary depending on the location of the land, ranging from a minimum of 10 hectares with a width of 30 metres to a minimum of 100 hectares with a width of 80 metres.

DERM is currently finalising guidelines that will provide information for applying the SCL criteria at a property level, including the process for on-ground assessments.

Strategic Cropping Protection Areas and Strategic Cropping Management Areas

The Government has also released draft trigger maps which identify all SCL within either "Strategic Cropping Protection Areas" or "Strategic Cropping Management Areas".

Strategic Cropping Protection Areas

Strategic Cropping Protection Areas are areas that are considered to be under intense and imminent development pressure, containing large aggregations of the State's best cropping land.

SCL located within Strategic Cropping Protection Areas will be afforded the highest protection. If land within a Strategic Cropping Protection Area meets the SCL criteria it cannot be permanently alienated by development, except in exceptional circumstances.

To be considered an exceptional circumstance, a proponent must demonstrate that:

  • for resource development, the resource is not found at an alternative site in Queensland that is not on SCL and for development assessed under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, the development is unable to occur other than on SCL; and
  • the development provides a significant community benefit to the State.

Strategic Cropping Protection Areas have been identified in Central Queensland and in Southern Queensland on the Darling Downs, comprising approximately 2.8% of the State's land mass.

Strategic Cropping Management Areas

If a proponent can demonstrate that SCL located within a Strategic Cropping Management Area does not have a history of cropping then the policy will not apply to it.

Otherwise, development in those areas will be assessed to ensure that SCL is avoided to the maximum extent possible and, where SCL cannot be avoided, the impacts are minimised.

Mitigation requirements will be specified under the new legislation to be introduced later this year.

Transitional arrangements

Proposed resource development projects (including coal, mineral, gas and petroleum projects) that achieved certain milestones in the approvals process as at 31 May 2011 will be the subject of transitional arrangements in the SCL legislation. The transitional arrangements will apply in the following circumstances:

  • for projects that require or have voluntarily undertaken an Environmental Impact Statement, the project has finalised Terms of Reference by 31 May 2011, and if a mining lease application, there is also a certificate of application under section 252 of the Mineral Resources Act 1989;
  • for projects not requiring an EIS, there is a draft Environmental Authority under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 issued by 31 May 2011; and
  • for projects that relate to expansion of existing mines under the Mineral Resources Act 1989, there are existing exploration permits or mineral development licences held by the existing mine owner and contiguous with the existing production tenure as at 23 August 2010 when the SCL framework was released and a Mining Lease certificate of application is obtained by August 2012.

It is intended that these transitional projects will be allowed to proceed on SCL, provided they avoid, minimise and mitigate their impact on SCL. Where unavoidable and minimised impacts on SCL are permanent, a transitional project will not be stopped from proceeding but will be required to provide for mitigation of the loss of the productive capacity of the impacted SCL.

Projects eligible under the transitional arrangements that obtained final environmental approvals or conditions by 31 May 2011 will not need to meet any further conditions.

Projects not eligible under the transitional arrangements have been put on notice that they will be required to comply with the full requirements of the SCL legislation.

Who bears the burden of conducting SCL assessments and what does this mean?

The onus is on a proponent to conduct a SCL assessment as the first step in the development application process. It is intended that an application fee will be payable to DERM, who will determine whether or not the land is SCL based on the assessment.

For development within a Strategic Cropping Management Area, a proponent will be responsible for preparing an application containing detailed information about the history of cropping on the land. A fee will be payable to DERM who will determine whether the land has a history of cropping based on the information. It is unclear whether it will always be necessary to conduct both a SCL assessment and history of cropping assessment in relation to development within a Strategic Cropping Management Area.

Under the framework landowners will also be able to "opt in" to the process by applying to DERM to have their land approved as SCL or as having had a history of cropping.

Once a determination has been made, it is the intention that SCL assessments will be noted on the land title and the trigger maps amended accordingly. At this stage it is unclear what, if any, appeal rights will be available in respect of determinations by DERM on these matters.

What's next?

The Government is expected to shortly release for public comment its draft State Planning Policy on SCL, which will address how development approvals, planning schemes and regional plans under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 will address SCL.

We can also expect DERM to shortly release SCL guidelines, which will provide information on how to apply the SCL criteria at a property level, including the process for on-ground assessments.

The new SCL legislation, including amendments to the existing resources legislation, is expected to be introduced into Parliament in late 2011.

What about rural land that is not used for cropping?

Although the SCL framework addresses the competing interests between the cropping, development and resources sectors, it does not address the issue of land-use competition involving agricultural land used for grazing. The Government has indicated that existing State Planning Policy 1/92 Development and the Conservation of Agricultural Land, which applies to both cropping and grazing land, will continue to apply in relation to grazing land.

The Queensland Government has also foreshadowed its intention to release a policy to address the impact of resource development encroaching on urban sites in rural areas.

For further information, please contact Xavier McMahon.

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 bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions