In early 2010, the Queensland Government released an initial
discussion paper detailing plans to implement a framework to
protect strategic cropping land (SCL) and on 23
August 2010, the Queensland Government released the SCL framework.
However, the Queensland Government delayed its announcement on how
the SCL framework would be implemented until 31 May 2011.
Since initially announcing the plan to implement an SCL
framework some 18 months ago, there has been much tension and
debate between farmers, environmentalists, agricultural and mining
companies as to whether the SCL framework will be effective in
minimising the affects of mining and related infrastructure or
whether the SCL framework will merely add to project costs and
Criteria for identifying Strategic Cropping Land
The SCL framework will likely have an immediate impact on both
current and future agricultural, resource and development projects
SCL is defined as "a scarce natural resource identified by
soil, climatic and landscape features that make it highly suitable
for crop production". The Queensland Government's SCL
framework is intended to conserve and manage SCL.
Eight criteria are expected to be consulted when determining
whether land is SCL. These are:
Gilgai micro relief;
Soil water storage.
The Department of Environment and Resource Management
(DERM), has issued draft SCL trigger maps. These
draft trigger maps are to be used as a guide only in determining
whether land is SCL. Classification of SCL is subject to an
objective on-ground assessment of the land against the
abovementioned criteria. Tenement holders and land owners are not
able to subjectively conclude that land is not SCL.
A copy of a map highlighting areas where SCL may exist is
attached. Additional draft SCL trigger maps are available at the
DERM website (www.derm.qld.gov.au).
Strategic Cropping Protection Areas
Land which is classified as Strategic Cropping Protection Areas
(Protections Areas) under the SCL framework will
be afforded the highest protection and requirements for
preservation. Under the proposed SCL framework, Protection Areas
must not be permanently alienated by development, except in limited
Two Protection Areas are presently proposed and can be viewed on
the attached map. One Protection Area is in central Queensland (the
Central Protection Area) which stretches from Emerald to Rolleston
and the other is in southern Queensland (the Southern Protection
Area) which stretches from as far north as Chinchilla and Kingaroy
to Toowoomba and down to Boonah and Stanthorpe. Cumulatively, these
two proposed Protection Areas total 4.78 million hectares.
Strategic Cropping Management Areas
Land which has a history of cropping and meets the SCL criteria,
will be classified Strategic Cropping Management Areas
(Management Areas). Before land that is classified
a Management Area can be developed, proponents must:
conduct an assessment which confirms that the proposed
development avoids SCL to the maximum extent possible;
identify SCL that is impacted upon and ensure that any impact
to SCL is minimised; and
if required, mitigate any permanent impacts.
It is likely that this process will add to project costs and
Proposed Management Areas are significant in size and can be
viewed on the attached map.
Impact of Strategic Cropping Land
Existing mineral, coal, gas and petroleum tenure applications
which met certain milestones by 31 May 2011, will be subject to
Projects that were not eligible for the transitional
arrangements and future projects will be subject to conditions
implemented under the SCL framework. The SCL framework is expected
to be implemented later this year and be retrospective.
The Regulatory Assessment Statement issued in relation to the
SCL framework, recommends that the cost implications in relation to
the management and assessment process incurred by the Queensland
Government be recovered from applicants. This is currently subject
to consultation; however it is likely that applicants will
ultimately be required to meet the Queensland Government's
costs in accordance with a fee schedule.
Moving forward, when planning future projects, SCL framework
costs and potential assessment delays should be built into project
budgets and timetables.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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This legal update is an overview of existing eligible project activities and new project types proposed to be developed.
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