The Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011 (Qld) came into force on 30 January 2012 in an endeavour to restrict mining and petroleum activities on certain areas of state land.
What is Strategic Cropping Land (SCL)?
The recent Queensland legislation is an attempt on behalf of the government to balance competing interests in the state’s best cropping land, with a motive to protect it from permanent alienation or diminished productivity. In order to determine whether land falls under this classification, the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) have published SCL Trigger Maps indicating potential SCL areas. However, the maps are not necessarily determinative and proponents may apply to DERM for an on-ground validation decision.
This assessment has regard to eight inclusive criteria; the land’s slope, rockiness, Gilgai microrelief, soil depth, soil wetness, soil pH, salinity and soil water storage. If one criterion is not met then the site is not considered SCL. It is important to consider that the onus of demonstrating that the trigger maps are inaccurate will lay with the person asserting it. Furthermore, making a validation application may be costly and the Act provides no rights of access to land for the purposes of an assessment.
What to do if Land is determined SCL?
Proponents of resource projects who wish to develop on SCL have two options available to them.
- For certain projects, proponents can elect to comply with the Standard Conditions Code published by DERM. These standard conditions will become conditions of the proponent’s environmental authority. The limitation of this approach is that while the code covers certain exploration activities, it does not apply to mining and may be of limited applicability to resource projects.
- Proponents can provide an assessment of the impacts of the development on the land. Impacts on SCL will be assessed as part of a proponent’s environmental authority application and certain conditions will be applied. Those who plan on instigating projects with permanent impacts on the land need to be wary. These impacts will only be approved in exceptional circumstances, an application for which can involve a fee of $46,253.
Exemptions to the Act
Developments won’t be subject to the Act if:
- A development approval, environmental authority or resource authority was in force before 30 January 2012.
- An environmental authority application and related mining or petroleum lease application were subject to an EIS requirement and the EIS stage was completed on or before 31 May 2011.
- An environmental authority application and related mining or petroleum lease application were required and a draft environmental authority was given on or before 31 May 2011.