Recently the Minister for State Development Infrastructure and Planning, the Honourable Jeff Seeney, introduced the Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 (Regional Planning Bill).
The Regional Planning Bill is aimed at ensuring the impact of resource activities and other regulated activities on areas of "regional interest" are assessed and managed. The purpose of the Regional Planning Bill is to:
- identify areas of Queensland that are of regional interest because they contribute, or are likely to contribute, to Queensland's economic, social or environmental prosperity
- give effect to the policies about matters of State interest stated in regional plans
- establish a process to manage the impacts of resource activities and regulated activities in these areas of regional interest and provide for the coexistence with the preservation of the feature, quality, characteristic or other attribute of the land that resulted in its identification as an area of regional interest.
This will impact Queensland Agribusinesses as the following are identified as areas of regional interest:
- Priority agricultural areas – are areas shown in a regional plan as a priority agricultural area or prescribed under a regulation. The Regional Planning Bill states that an area will only be a priority agricultural area if it includes any one or more of the following:
- an area used for a priority agricultural land use (which is a highly productive agriculture of a type identified in a regional plan for an area or regional interest or of a type prescribed under a regulation for an area of regional interest)
- an area that contains a source of water, or infrastructure for supplying water, necessary for the ongoing use of land in the proposed area for a priority agricultural land use
- an area, if the carrying out of a resource activity or regulated activity in the area is likely to have a negative impact on a water source mentioned in the above paragraph.
- Priority living areas – are areas shown on a map in a regional plan as a priority living area and that includes the existing settled area of a city, town or other community as well as other areas necessary or desirable for the future growth of the existing settled area and as a buffer between the existing or a future settled area and resource activities
- Strategic environmental areas – are areas shown on a map in a regional plan as a strategic environmental area or prescribed under a regulation
- Strategic cropping areas – are areas of Strategic Cropping Land (SCL) or potential SCL, will be identified on the electronic Trigger Map for Strategic Cropping Land in Queensland.
Repeal of Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011
It is noteworthy that the Regional Planning Bill seeks to repeal the Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011 (SCL Act). In doing so, the Bill provides for a number of transitional provisions. For example, certificates and decisions previously issued pursuant to the SCL Act will convert to regional interest authorities where they involve resource activities occurring on strategic cropping areas.
Applying for a "regional interest authority"
Under the Regional Planning Bill, a person will be required to apply for a "regional interest authority" if they intend to undertake a resource activity or regulated activity in a regional interest area.
A "resource activity" is defined as an activity which requires a resource authority (for example a mining tenement or petroleum authority), whilst a "regulated activity" is defined as an activity likely to have an impact on an area of regional interest and prescribed under regulation for the area.
There are number of limited exemptions from the requirement to hold a regional interest authority, including for small scale mining activities and activities that are carried out in strategic cropping areas or in a priority agricultural area if the activity is completed and land restored within a 12 month period.
The Regional Planning Bill makes it an offence to carry out, or allow the carrying out, of a resource activity or regulated activity in an area of regional interest without a regional interest authority.
As the Regional Planning Bill addresses the regulation of Strategic Cropping Land it proposes to repeal the current Act.
Review and Submissions
The State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee will be conducting a review of the Regional Planning Bill and is required to report its findings to Parliament by 17 March 2014.
The Committee is calling for public submissions to be made by 5pm on 17 January 2014.
Please contact our Agribusiness team if you would like assistance in preparing a submission or require more information regarding the likely impact of the Regional Planning Bill.
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.