In response to its election commitments the Queensland Government last year established the Gasfields Commission Queensland, which now receives official powers with the passing of the Gasfields Commission Act 2013 (Qld) (Act), commencing on 1 July 2013.
The Commission addresses policy objectives which aim to facilitate better relationships between landholders, regional communities and the onshore gas industry in Queensland, following the strong growth in the onshore gas industry and concerns regarding possible associated impacts on water, land and social infrastructure. The terms of reference of the Commission are focussed on reviewing the existing regulatory regime which relates to the onshore gas industry. In the context of the Act “onshore gas industry” means businesses carrying out exploration, production or transportation of petroleum within Queensland.
The Commission’s functions are not to investigate the industry and make determinations, rather its role is largely advisory and includes:
- reviewing the effectiveness of government entities in implementing regulatory frameworks relating to the onshore gas industry;
- making recommendations to the relevant Minister that regulatory frameworks be reviewed or amended;
- convening meetings of relevant stakeholders to resolve issues arising through their coexistence;
- conducting research and publishing educational materials relating to the onshore gas industry; and
- obtaining information and advice on key issues relating to the onshore gas industry.
Although the Act gives power to the Commission to request information from landholders, onshore gas operators and certain companies engaged by onshore gas operators, an exception to such a request exists where the information is confidential or giving it may be detrimental to the entity’s commercial or other interests. Penalties apply if the requested information is not provided or if false or misleading information is provided. The Commission may also require information and advice from government entities on relevant issues. Also, government entities developing policy or legislation relating to the onshore gas industry are required to consult with the Commission.
The Commission includes seven Commissioners with experience in the onshore gas industry, science, legal practice, land management and valuation, community development, finance and business and in negotiations between landholders and the onshore gas industry (see further information here). It has established a Southern Gasfields Community Leaders’ Council and will establish a Northern council, both of which are to identify issues affecting the coexistence of landholders, regional communities and the onshore gas industry in Queensland.
Issues resulting from this Act are likely to concern land access, water management, strategic cropping land and other environmental matters.