Law Reform · Access to Justice

In the news: Legislation definition prompts warnings

21 July, 2014

Community groups are set to lose the right to object to an overwhelming majority of mining projects if a new bill is approved in state parliament, according to EDO Qld principal solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg.

MELODY LABINSKY, QUEENSLAND COUNTRY LIFE, 21 JUL, 2014 04:00 AM

Passage of the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014 will mean 90 per cent of proposed projects would not be open for community comment or objection.

There would also be no public notification of small-scale projects.

The bill is currently in its consultation phase and submissions to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee closed on July 9.

The committee is now considering those submissions before making recommendations that will be considered and debated in parliament.

Jericho beef producers Bruce and Annette Currie wrote a submission to the committee, raising their concerns about the proposal to limit objection rights to only directly affected landholders.

The definition of a 'directly affected' landholder is unclear, they said, and the flow-on effects of mining should be considered.

The couple, who operate 25,000-hectare property Speculation, at Jericho, understand the importance of objection rights and were involved in the Alpha coal case in the Land Court.

"We believe it is extremely important that all sectors of the community can comment, object and have appeal rights to government decisions made on 'regional interest areas'," they said.

"Our current situation is that if the mines in our area are given the go ahead our cattle property could potentially have its ground water impacted by coal mining; if this occurs then it will destroy our business.

"It is imperative that individuals and community groups can decide if they wish to appeal a government decision. We need and want a right of appeal."

The Environmental Defenders Office represents landholders and conservation groups on issues ranging from environmental planning to mining and coal seam gas.

EDO principal solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg said the proposed changes would only benefit mining companies.

"Essentially people's rights are being stripped away without any justification," she said.

"Cases like the Alpha coal case show how landholders and community groups alike act responsibly and lead to finding that some projects should not go ahead based on groundwater impacts and uncertainties."

Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014 was about getting the balance between resource development, landholder rights and environmental protection right.

He said the bill contained a number of key benefits for landowners that didn't previously exist under the former Labor government.

"For the first time, directly affected landowners will have the right to give or withhold their consent for activities to occur close to their homes or businesses," Mr Cripps said.

"This will provide a clear 'line in the sand', increasing the protection from 100 metres to 200 metres for mineral and coal projects."