This week the Queensland Parliament passed the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014.
Earlier this year, submissions were invited on the Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013. EDO Qld and EDO NQ raised a number of concerns about the Bill and prepared a joint submission to the Parliamentary Committee. (Read our joint submission here).
In summary the Act:
- creates new ‘regional interest areas’ including strategic environmental areas (for example, the Wenlock/Steve Irwin Reserve and some other wild rivers areas), priority living and agricultural areas;
- requires proponents who want to carry out a resource activity like mining or CSG in one of these areas, to apply for a ‘Regional Interest Authority’ (RIA);
- where an Environmental Authority (EA) conflicts with the RIA, the EA can be amended to be consistent with the RIA; and
- prevents third party appeals by citizens acting in the public interest, as it only allows “affected land holders” or the proponent to challenge the decision in a merits appeal.
Essentially the Act will mean that if a landholder agrees to the resource activity, the mining company will simply notify the Government - but without any scrutiny - as landowner agreements with mining companies will mean:
- No public notification of the RIA application;
- No opportunity to make public submissions on the RIA;
- No third party public interest appeal rights; and
- No assessment of how significant the impacts are on the regional interest area.
To find out whether there are regional interest areas declared in your region, check your regional plan.