On 30 March 2018 the following aspects of the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017 (the Act) will commence:
- the prohibition of a 100% fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workforce for the operational phase of a large resource project that has a nearby regional community; and
- the requirement for owners or proponents of a large resource project to prepare a social impact assessment informed by stakeholder consultation as part of the EIS for the project.
A “large resource project” is defined in the Act to mean a resource project for which an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required or that holds a site-specific environmental authority and has a workforce of 100 or more workers (or a smaller workforce decided by the Coordinator-General).
A “nearby regional community” is defined in the Act to mean a town, any part of which is within a 125km radius of the main access to the project (or a greater or lesser radius decided by the Coordinator-General) and has a population of more than 200 people (or a small population decided by the Coordinator-General).
The Act requires a list to be published on the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning’s website setting out the names of large resource projects affected by the Act, together with the name of each nearby regional community for the large resource project (amongst other things).
At the time of writing, this list is not yet available on the Department’s website. It is understood that the list will be published prior to 30 March 2018.
If a large resource project is contravening the 100% FIFO prohibition, the Coordinator-General can require the owner of a large resource project to submit an operational workforce management plan for approval (and conditions can be set). The matters to be included in an operational workforce management plan are to be stated in a guideline. At the time of writing, this guideline is not publicly available.
Through amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, the Act also prohibits the owner or the principal contractor of a large resource project from discriminating against residents of nearby regional communities when recruiting or terminating a worker’s employment because the worker is not a FIFO worker. A principal contractor of a large resource project is defined in the Act to mean the “person that operates all or a significant part of the large resource project for the owner of the project.”
The Act largely relates to workforce during the operational phase of a large resource project. The operational phase of a large resource project means the period from the start to the end of production of coal, a mineral or petroleum for the project. There is also the potential for the Act to be relevant during the construction phase of a large resource project. In evaluating the EIS for a large resource project, the Act gives the Coordinator-General power to decide whether a person employed during the construction phase is a worker for the Act. Such a decision will likely be informed by the social impact assessment prepared for the project.
Social Impact Assessment
The Act clearly states that the social impact assessment must prioritise the recruitment of workers from local and regional communities and then workers who will live in regional communities. The details to be included in a social impact assessment are to be stated in a guideline. A draft Social Impact Assessment Guideline was circulated in December 2017 for consultation. Submissions on that draft guideline close on 6 February 2018.