Factsheets · Energy & Climate

Self- Representation in the Queensland Land Court

01 February, 2014

This factsheet will assist applicants who are representing themselves in a hearing in the Land Court. 

This Factsheet is for general information purposes only, it is not legal advice. Important legal details have been omitted to provide a brief overview of this area of the law. If you require legal advice relating to your particular circumstances contact EDO or your solicitor. © EDO (Qld) Current as at February 2014.

Key points

  • The Land Court is a specialist court that hears disputes about proposed mines.
  • It is possible to represent yourself throughout the entire case; however mining appeals can be very complex so it may be necessary to seek some expert evidence and legal advice.
  • To minimise your time and costs you may need to limit your case to the most important issues and avoid minor or technical problems.
  • For mining objections, you can choose your level of involvement in the proceedings. 
  • After hearing objections, the Land Court will make a ‘recommendation’ to the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines about the Mining Lease and a recommendation to the Chief Executive of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) about the Environmental Authority (EA).

For more detailed information on self-representation in the Land Court, contact the EDO Qld or seek advice from a private solicitor. Further information is also available.

Contents 

  1. Right to be heard
  2. Level of involvement
  3. Possible outcomes
  4. Costs
  5. Checklist for avoiding a costs order
  6. Expected time frames for a hearing in the Land Court
  7. Time Limitations
  8. Useful contacts and further information

1.  Right to be heard

All applicants who lodged a valid objection to a Mining Lease and/or EA will automatically be referred by the Mines Lodgement Office to the Land Court. All applicants will soon be notified of the hearing date in the Land Court. There could be several objectors to the mining lease and/or EA who, if you haven’t met already, you will meet on the first court date.

The first hearing date will not be the actual hearing on the merits of the application and objection, but rather, the Court will set a timetable for the preparation of the hearing.

2.  Level of involvement

Once an objection to a Mining Lease and/or EA is made, objectors will be given a choice by the Land Court as to what level of involvement they wish to take during the proceedings:

  • Level One (low level involvement) – relies on their written notice of objection and not required to attend or participate in a hearing.
  • Level Two (medium level involvement) – relies on their written notice of objection, attends the hearing and is able to make submissions at the end.
  • Level Three (high level involvement) – relies on their written notice of objection, attends the hearing, is able to make submissions, and is able to call evidence and cross examine witnesses.[1]

The level of objection you choose will depend on the time and resources you have available.

IMPORTANT!

It is not necessary for you to have legal representation in the Land Court, however, it is a good idea to seek further legal advice if you are considering a level two or three objection, particularly to minimise the risk of any potential costs orders (see below).

3.  Possible outcomes

If you have objected to the lease and the EA, it is usual practice for both to be heard by the Court at the same time. The Court’s role is to make a recommendation to the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines about the Mining Lease and recommendation to the DEHP about the EA. The Mining Lease and the EA must be approved before the mine can proceed.

There will be three possible outcomes to proceedings:

  • The Land Court will recommend that the Mining Lease and/or EA not be granted;
  • The Land Court will recommend that the Mining Lease and/or EA should be granted but with changes to the conditions of the EA or specified conditions on the Mining Lease; or
  • The Land Court will recommend the Mining Lease and EA be granted without any changes.

4.  Costs

Level one and level two objectors are likely to have minimal costs as they do not have to call experts, and can elect not to employ legal representation. There is a risk of costs being awarded against you if you lose, and more so if it is held the objection was brought to delay or obstruct the mine on unreasonable grounds.

Costs may be higher for level three objectors as they should normally employ experts to support their arguments, and it is advisable to have legal representation, such as solicitors and/or barristers a further cost. However, it is possible to greatly reduce these costs by finding representatives and experts who will act for free (or ‘pro-bono’) if your case concerns matters of considerable public interest. You can also contact the EDO Qld to see if we will take the case on public interest grounds.

Potential costs orders against objectors

The judge has discretion to order you to pay the other parties costs if you do not succeed in your objection.[2] Therefore, should you choose to lodge an objection which will lead to a  Land Court hearing, particularly as a level three objector, there is the possibility you may be open to a large costs order awarded against you.

5.  Checklist for minimising risk of a costs order

 

Ensuring objections are relevant to the criteria used to assess the objection and supported by evidence

 

Only pursuing an objection where you have good evidence to support your points of objection – call credible expert witnesses if Level 3 Objection

 

Don’t pursue unnecessary technical points, for example about defects in the public notice if you have not suffered prejudice

 

Make every effort to run your case efficiently and respecting the Court’s timetable

 

Obtain a copy of the EDO Mining and Coal Seam Gas Law in Queensland Handbook

 

Obtain expert and legal advice and representation wherever possible

6.  Expected time frames for a hearing in the Land Court

There is no fixed time frame within which hearings will typically be heard in the Land Court; the work load of the Court, the complexity of the matter and how many experts are relied upon by the parties are just some factors which will determine the expected time frame. The whole process, including pre-hearing document exchange, the hearing itself and the delivery of the written judgment may take between 6 months and 2 years.   Typically large environmental objections have 6 – 12 months between lodgement and hearing and then another 6 – 12 months between the hearing and a decision.

7.  Time limitations

Be careful whether a time period says business days or normal days (including weekends).

Example: How to count 20 business days

  • Day one is the day after you receive the notice;
  • Day 20 is the last day the document must be filed;
  • For ‘business days’ do not include weekends or public holidays in your count. 

8.  Useful contacts and further information

Queensland Land Court

363 George Street, Brisbane QLD 4000

Land Court Registry (07) 3247 5193

http://www.courts.qld.gov.au/courts/land-court

In particular we recommend you read the following Land Court publication:

Practice Direction Number 3 of 2015- Objectors Participation in Objections Hearings under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 and/or The Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Form 10)

Note! The Land Court Registry cannot give you legal advice.


[1] http://www.courts.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/437197/lc-pd-3of2015.pdf. 

[2] Section 34 Land Court Act 2000 (Qld).