The relationship between farmers and miners may undergo significant change, with a bill to be tabled in the Queensland parliament this week offering greater protection to landowners.
The Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 makes amendments to the ‘40-day rule’, removing the ability of miners to take landholders to the Land Court if an agreement cannot be reached within 40 days, or to automatically start a project after 40 days.
Under the new laws mining companies will have to demonstrate their efforts to negotiate in good faith with landholders, with no time limit on the period of negotiations.
Miners who cannot reach agreement will now need to apply to the Department of State Development Infrastructure and Planning to seek approval for their project.
Queensland deputy premier Jeff Seeney said the legislation will provide balance between landholders and miners, giving more power to landholders who are easily intimidated by the threat of costly legal proceedings.
“This is a provision that landholders have never had before,” Seeney said.
"It removes the psychological lever that mining companies have held over landholders.
“I regularly remind resource companies that the Newman government has never condoned a mining sector free-for-all across our most important farming country, or areas of significant environmental value.”
Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF) chief executive officer Dan Galligan said the amendments provide for limited government involvement, only in cases when agreement cannot be reached.
"In so doing the Deputy Premier was very clear: landholders must be consulted on how developments take place on their property and on this QFF wholeheartedly agrees," Galligan said.
Galligan said QFF was now waiting for further detail to explain how farmers' rights are maintained under these laws.
“Central to that will be the recognition that within identified Priority Agricultural Areas, landholders must be allowed a say how coexistence would occur.”
“It is this implementation step that has been missing so far and this is the solution that agricultural industry bodies have provided in their suggested coexistence framework.
The new laws have reportedly met a backlash from the mining industry which has been attempting to block the legislative changes.
“The new laws were only ever going to shift power from miners to landholders to provide balance,” Seeney said.
“Miners were always going to be angry and upset with these changes.”
However, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) seemed to be in support of the Bill, as it will also help prevent vexatious court objections made by parties who are neither landholders nor community members directly affected by a project application.
QRC Chief Executive Michael Roche said there was no doubt the proposed reforms would affect the tactics being employed by activist groups whose prime motivation is to disrupt and delay projects through the courts.
“These reforms should bring to an end the spectacle of a Canberra-based environmentalist using the Queensland Land Court to object to a Queensland mining project in western Queensland on the grounds of alleged impacts on global climate change,” Roche said.
“The stalling of projects through litigation was a strategy exposed in the anti-coal movement’s funding document Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom that came to light in early 2012.
“The same organisations have also been going out of their way to spread fear and loathing in local communities.”
Image: Northern Star