The Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has announced a 2.94 million hectare increase in the amount of land to be mapped as strategic cropping land (SCL). The announcement was made with support from the Ministers for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, John McVeigh, and Natural Resources and Mines, Andrew Cripps in Dalby.
What does this mean for resources companies?
The proposal would see a 40% increase in land shown on trigger mapping as SCL. This land is then taken to be within the Strategic Cropping Area (SCA) under the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (Qld) (RPI Act). Accordingly, the proposal means resource companies are more likely to be required to go through an assessment and approval process under the RPI Act, particularly in the Darling Downs and Central Queensland areas.
The RPI Act repealed and in part replaced the Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011 (Qld). While it was hinted when the RPI Act was being prepared that revisions to the SCL mapping would be undertaken, these were largely assumed to relate to the removal of areas known not to meet the SCL criteria, rather than a significant increase in the amount of land mapped as SCL. Once land is mapped, the onus is on a resource proponent to disprove the mapping.
Resource proponents are required to obtain a Regional Interests Development Approval (RIDA) under the RPI Act if a proposal will impact on the SCA.
The Government has indicated that the mapping changes will not impact on existing projects. However, the transitional provisions associated with previous SCL legislation have been complex in their implementation. Accordingly, any legislation associated with the mapping will be carefully scrutinised.