The Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014 (Qld) (Bill) was introduced to Queensland Parliament on 5 June 2014 by the Minister for Energy and Resources. The Bill represents a major component of the Government’s ‘Modernising Queensland’s Resources Acts Program’. In brief, the Bill addresses the following:
One of the main purposes of the Bill is to consolidate Queensland’s various complex resources laws. Relevantly, the Bill proposes to consolidate the following legislation into one resources act:
- Mineral Resources Act 1989;
- Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004;
- Petroleum Act 1923;
- Geothermal Energy Act 2010; and
- Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009.
The Bill continues on the Government’s efforts to simplify and harmonise the provisions of the existing resources legislation with respect to dealings, caveats and associated agreements. The Bill seeks to do this by introducing one set of simplified administrative processes focusing on outcomes with the specific prescriptive processes to be the subject of regulations.
The Bill attempts to tackle the issue of overlapping resources tenures by (amongst other things):
- clarifying the application and scope of Ministerial reserved powers;
- confirming the right of way for coal mining including exclusive enjoyment and abandonment of initial mining areas and rolling mining areas;
- establishing the process of producing joint development plans and what content is to be included in these plans;
- confirming the gas party's right of first refusal to incidental coal seam gas;
- dealing with the compensation principles in a limited way with further details to be the subject of regulations to be developed later; and
- providing that arbitrated decisions will be required to be consistent with the maximisation of State resources and safety and health requirements.
The Bill includes a number of land access reforms including:
the Land Court will have expanded jurisdiction to make determinations relating to conduct issues and will be able to examine the behaviour of parties during land access negotiations;
■ conduct and compensation agreements are to be noted on the title of the affect land;
- parties can now enter into ‘access agreements’ in respect of land that resource authority holders must pass over to reach land within their resource authority areas; and
- landholders / occupiers and resource companies will be able to "opt out" of the requirement to enter into a conduct and compensation agreement should both parties agree and instead rely on the provisions of the existing Land Access Code to govern their interactions.
The Bill introduces the concept of ‘restricted land’. Holders of resource authorities granted after the Bill is passed and commences will not be permitted to enter onto ‘restricted land’ to carry out a prescribed activity without the written consent of each relevant owner / occupier of that restricted land. Restricted land is defined to include any land within a yet to be prescribed distance of either:
- a permanent building used for the purpose of a residence, a place of worship, or a childcare centre, hospital or library;
- an area used for the purpose of a school, a cemetery or burial place or used for aquaculture, intensive;
- animal feedlotting, pig keeping or poultry farming;
- a building used for a business or other purpose if it is reasonably considered that the building cannot be easily;
- relocated and the building cannot co-exist with authorised activities carried out under resource authorities; or
- another building or area prescribed by regulation (a regulation may also prescribe buildings or areas that will not constitute restricted land).
Where to from here?
The Bill was referred to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee which is currently due to report to the Parliament on the Bill by 30 August 2014 and accordingly may be subject to changes before it is ultimately voted on. The Bill is only one stage of a complicated reform agenda and there are still many issues that have been identified by the Government (and stakeholders) which are yet to be addressed. There are also many other provisions of the existing acts that are not dealt with by the Bill and will need to be transitioned to the new framework by future Bills. Further, as has been the case with other reform initiatives of this Government, much of the ‘heavy lifting’ detail is to be dealt with by regulations that are not available for consideration along side the Bill.