The State Government will deliver the clearest regional planning laws in Queensland’s history with Parliament today passing the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014.
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Planning and Infrastructure Jeff Seeney said the Act will provide investment certainty for the agriculture and resource sectors by introducing a clear and equitable process to assess mining and gas developments in regional Queensland.
“In the past, proposals for resource developments in regional areas created distress and confusion as landholders, resource companies and local governments struggled to cope with unprecedented growth in the resources sector,” Mr Seeney said.
“I have watched for years as rural producers felt threatened, resource companies felt constrained and local councils were caught in the crossfire of disputes that needn’t have happened.
“In typical Labor fashion, they wanted all the spoils of resource sector growth but none of the responsibility in ensuring proper planning processes were in place to cope with such expansion.
“Before our election we promised to fix up this mess and ease land use conflicts in regional Queensland, and these new laws will do just that.”
Mr Seeney said the new Act was not designed to prohibit development, but simply to properly plan for and apply sensible conditions on that development.
“The laws will require a shift in thinking for resource companies and farmers but they are based on planning mechanisms that have been successfully used to resolve land use conflicts in urban settings for years,” he said.
“Resource companies can no longer proceed directly to the Land Court after 40 days should a landholder not agree to a proposed activity – equally a resources company may receive an exemption from the Regional Interest Development Application process simply by reaching a recognised legal agreement with a landholder.”
Mr Seeney said the Act introduces a new system of regional planning across Queensland, with regional plans for Central Queensland and the Darling Downs already in place, the Cape York Regional Plan in draft form and plans for other regions to be rolled out progressively.
“These plans establish the over-arching principles that will apply to consideration of future development in a region and will reflect the vision and wishes of the local community,” he said.
These plans recognise and protect the following four areas of ‘regional interest’:
- Priority Agricultural Areas
- Priority Living Areas
- Strategic Environmental Areas and,
- Strategic Cropping Areas (formerly Strategic Cropping Land)
“Under the proposed Act, a resource or other regulated activity can only occur in these areas if the proponents reach agreement with a landholder, or if a Regional Interest Development Approval is granted.
“The assessment process we have established restores the balance of power between rural producers and resource companies when new mining or gas developments are proposed and offers greater incentive for resource companies to reach mutually beneficial agreements with landholders.”
Leading Queensland farm groups say the new laws are big step forward in addressing the challenges of managing growth in both the agriculture and resource sectors.
AgForce CEO Charles Burke said the new Act offered important protections to farmers in Queensland’s most significant agricultural land.
“The planning process being introduced addresses a key tenet of AgForce’s advocacy from the beginning of the resource and Coal Seam Gas boom – that landholder approval must be sought before a project can go ahead,” Mr Burke said.
“We congratulate the Deputy Premier for his commitment in seeing this through and we look forward to working with him to finalise the assessment criteria that will be applied to new resource developments.”
Queensland Farmers Federation CEO Dan Galligan said his organisation is very pleased to see this legislation passed by Parliament.
“These laws put at the forefront of resource development the very sensible notion that landholders in priority agricultural areas should have their say on how coexistence might occur,” Mr Galligan said.
“It begins to address the power imbalance between farmers and resource proponents and quite rightly prioritises agricultural activity on what is a finite and critical resource for Queensland.
“Importantly these new laws do not stop resource developments, but provide an opportunity for farmers and resources companies to be responsible for determining how these two critical industries might coexist at a property and regional level.”
More information on the Regional Planning Interests Act is available at www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/RPIAct