The Regional Planning Interests Bill (Qld) is
legislation squarely directed at the resources industry in
If the Bill is passed in its current form, it will generally
prevent resources activities being carried out in areas of regional
interest. While resource project proponents will be able to apply
for a regional interests authority to carry out their
activities in these areas, it would seem they will only be
permitted if both the state government and relevant local
So, will these new regional interests authorities
better "manage the impact of resource activities and other
regulated activities on areas of the State that contribute, or are
likely to contribute, to Queensland's economic, social and
environmental prosperity", as intended by the Bill?
Or is it simply another layer of regulatory burden on the
resources industry, and another means by which resources projects
can be challenged and refused?
The Bill's basic stance is that resources activities (and
other regulated activities which will be identified in regulations)
cannot be carried out in areas of regional interest.
However, it does offer a process for applying for a regional
interests authority which would allow such activities to be carried
out in those areas. The process allows various bodies (which seem
to include, as a minimum, the relevant local council) to have input
into the grant of a regional interests authority and any conditions
attaching to such an authority.
For some applications, any person can make submissions which
will need to be considered by an assessor. It seems likely that any
matter raised in submissions against a regional interests authority
will likely be the same as issues raised against any tenement
approval or environmental authority. So project proponents may find
themselves having to deal with the same issues multiple times in
For some resource authorities, most notably mining leases, the
grant of the resource authority occurs after an application process
during which the decision maker (usually the Minister) must take
into account a number of factors including the public interest.
For mining leases, a decision about the grant must also take
into account other factors such as alternate land uses. With
consideration already needing to be given to these factors, which
would include impacts on local communities, impacts on agricultural
activities etc, it seems that a large part of the function of a
regional interest authority is already covered as part of that
decision making process.
It is also concerning that regional interests, as expressed by
any local government, would override broader State interests. This
is because, under the Bill, the chief executive, who makes the
ultimate decision on whether the regional interests authority will
be granted, must "give effect" to any recommendations
given by a local government in response to the application.
There does not appear to be any ability for the State to
override the views of the local council regardless of the potential
benefits to the State as a whole. That is, regional interests will
take priority over State interests.
The Bill is also designed to give strategic regional plans some
legislative force for the purposes of resources legislation. At
present, strategic regional plans exist as statutory instruments
under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) which is generally
excluded from the operation of resources legislation.
The existing statutory regional plans, while mentioning the
importance of the resources industry in their areas of operation,
focus primarily on the importance of the agricultural sector and
urban development. As might be expected from a document prepared
primarily as a planning document, the statutory regional plans
developed to date do not include any substantive measures designed
to support or facilitate the resources industry.
Also, the existing statutory regional plans do not appear to be
limited in how often they can be amended and therefore how often
the various areas of regional interest can be expanded or
The Bill foreshadows that a significant degree of detail will be
included in regulations so the full impacts of the Bill can not be
assessed until those regulations are released.
However, if the Bill is passed in its current form, resources
projects will generally be excluded from areas of regional
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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