Changes to the strategic cropping land regime look set to deliver much needed clarification to the use of strategically important land in Queensland.
Miners, farmers and developers have been clashing over the use of land in Queensland for some time, prompting the Queensland Government to readjust policy settings and implement changes to the management of competing land claims.
These changes will clarify the extent to which the strategic cropping land (SCL) regime operates by specifically excluding certain areas and industries from its operation, and make the assessment process for certain resource activities easier and less costly.
What this means for project proponents
In recent years, continuing investment in and the rapid development of the resources industry in Queensland have sparked much debate amongst regulators, industry representatives and the public, particularly around areas considered important due to their highly productive agricultural capabilities.
To alleviate these concerns, the previous Queensland Government passed the Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011 (Qld) (SCL Act) which commenced on 30 January 2012. The current Government has endorsed the SCL regime and continues to review its operation in order to ensure policy objectives are being met.
As a result of this review, the Government has implemented changes to the regime to clarify the extent to which the SCL regime operates, and facilitate further investment in the development of resources by reducing the need for more complex assessment and associated application fees for certain resource activities in SCL and potential SCL areas.
Background to the changes
On 21 December 2012, the amended Strategic Cropping Land Regulation 2011 (Qld) (SCL Regulation) came into effect, supporting practical improvements to the SCL regime through:
- a revised SCL trigger map;
- a new SCL standard conditions code for resource activities (SCL Code); and
- a new fee structure for compliance certificate applications.
Revisions of the SCL trigger map
The SCL trigger map, a map that identifies the location of potential SCL areas within Queensland, has been amended to remove areas of land that have been classified as not highly suitable for cropping and as not requiring assessment against the requirements of the SCL Act.
Areas removed include:
- beaches, foreshores and lower class agricultural land in Queensland's Gemfields and Mt Garnett regions;
- major infrastructure such as mine pits, power stations and dams that existed prior to the commencement of the SCL Act; and
- 'urban' areas in the Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday Regional Plan and the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Plan .
New SCL standard conditions code for resource activities
The SCL Code, which outlines how resource activities may be carried out on SCL or potential SCL, has been amended to include standard conditions for temporary resource activities considered to have no additional or a minimal impact on SCL or potential SCL, and to revise the conditions for activities expected to have a low impact on SCL.
The new SCL Code is intended to simplify the SCL compliance framework for certain coal, mineral, petroleum and gas activities that have a temporary impact and pose a relatively low risk of adversely impacting SCL, and to provide an expedited approval process while ensuring there are appropriate standards of management and protection of SCL.
New fee structure for compliance certificate applications
New fees for compliance certificate applications have been introduced for resource activities expected to have no additional impact or minimal impact on SCL or potential SCL. The new fees are intended to ensure that the fees payable are proportionate to the level of risk of the resource activities to be carried out.
The amendments also include the introduction of a reduced fee for the reissue of a compliance certificate to eligible applicants where an environmental authority or resource authority is amended to add or amend existing resource activities being carried out on SCL or potential SCL.
Updated SCL, tenure and environmental authority application forms have been developed in light of the above amendments and objectives.
The Queensland Government has also announced amendments to the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) to exclude piggeries, poultry and egg production developments on SCL or potential SCL from assessment under the SCL regime. As a result, all intensive animal industries are now exempt from the SCL regime.
Further details about the SCL regime are available through the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines.
These changes represent practical steps forward in the Queensland Government's commitment to striking an effective balance between the resources, agriculture and urban development sectors, protecting the State's best cropping land and reducing government red tape.
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