Select Committee on Land Access for Resource Companies –
Summary of YPLOG submission
YPLOG is currently drafting its submission to the Select Committee on Land Access for Resource Companies. The closing date for all written submissions is 30 April.
A draft summary of the key arguments put forward in our submission are outlined below for your urgent consideration.
What we are asking of our YPLOG members
If you agree with our submission recommendations (see summary below), COULD YOU PLEASE:
- EITHER PUT IN YOUR OWN SUBMISSION SUPPORTING OUR APPROACH; OR
- LET US KNOW AS SOON AS POSSIBLE if you would ALLOW US TO ADD YOUR NAME AND EMAIL TO OUR FINAL SUBMISSION, INDICATING YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE NEW DIRECTION WE ARE ADVOCATING.
We need to show the Select Committee that there is widespread support for these changes.
If you agree to add your name to our submission, or have any concerns about the direction YPLOG is taking, please contact us on 0487 431366.
Summary of YPLOG’s key submission arguments
- Cannot rely on the Mining Act to deliver meaningful protection for cultivated land
- During the recent three year review of South Australia’s Mining Act, SA farmers lobbied hard to get its land access provisions changed to provide greater protection for land owners and cultivated land from intrusive exploration and mining.
- Our concerns and recommendations for change were completely ignored.
- Instead, both Government and Opposition endorsed new measures that actually made it easier for miners to access cultivated land.
It therefore seems futile to try to achieve meaningful protections for cultivated land via changes to the Mining Act which is designed purely and simply to facilitate mining.
- Need for an alternative approach to provide a better way forward for SA
- The Select Committee is required to inquire into land access regimes operating in interstate or overseas jurisdictions as a possible guide to reform in SA.
- After a preliminary search, YPLOG has narrowed its focus to Queensland and NSW.
- Both states have implemented potentially more promising approaches to protecting their strategic cultivated land from mining activities.
- Queensland does this through legislation, NSW through specific Government policies and plans.
- Despite some differences, there are some major similarities between the two jurisdictions. For example:
- Both acknowledge that strategic cultivated land requires special protection from resource development;
- Both provide an objective, comprehensive and consistent approach to identifying and assessing the likely impact of each resource application on strategic cultivated land;
- Both the Qld legislation and NSW policies are independent of, and override those key aspects of their mining legislation pertaining to resource company access to strategic cultivated land.
Both Queensland and NSW land access regimes therefore provide a promising basis for change in SA.
- Cautionary note: need to identify failings in the Qld and NSW models
Although Qld and NSW offer a potentially better way forward, information from farmers’ groups indicate they also have shortcomings, either because of inadequate legislative provisions or because of poor implementation. We therefore need to fully understand and rectify those failings to ensure that any system we develop that is predicated on these models is both more effective and equitable than the originals.
- YPLOG draft recommendations to Select Committee
That the South Australia Government acknowledges that our limited cultivated land requires strong and effective protection against inappropriate resource development.
To achieve this, commit to the development of separate legislation that sits outside of, and overrides, the Mining Act as it pertains to land access requirements by resource companies in areas of strategic cultivated land.
Establish a process for developing that legislation in consultation with relevant stakeholders, landowners and the community.
In drafting that legislation, “cherry pick” the best aspects of the Queensland and NSW models (or any other relevant models not yet identified) that are applicable to South Australia’s specific characteristics and requirements. These should include:
- a comprehensive state-wide strategy for identifying and mapping SA’s strategic cultivated land;
- clearly defined, objective criteria to assess each resource application targeting cultivated land;
- an independent body to assess each application.
In drafting that legislation, Identify all limitations of the Qld and NSW systems (both at a legislative and implementation level) and determine ways to redress these for the South Australian context.
For more specific details on the Queensland and NSW models, please read on:
In 2011, in response to the growing competition for land from mining interests and urban development, this state introduced completely new legislation – the Strategic Cropping Land Act – which established a rigorous, objective process for assessing resource development applications in areas containing strategic cropping land. Its purpose was to protect land suitable for cropping and “preserve the productive capacity of that land for generations”.
- As a starting point, the entire state was mapped to identify very broad regions which, based on climate and soil qualities, had the potential to support crop production.
- However, given the size of these regions, not all land within them was necessarily suitable for cropping.
- So, as a second filter, a resource company wanting to conduct activities within any one of these regions had to prove – through rigorous, scientific on-site assessment – that the specific portion of land they wanted for their operations did not meet the criteria for strategic cropping land.
- The final decision on whether or not the land was strategic cropping land rested with the Dept. of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, not the mining department.
The original 2011 Act has now been replaced by the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014. However,all elements of the 2011 Act have been migrated across to the 2014 legislation.
NSW also acknowledges the need to provide greater protection for agricultural land from the impacts of mining. However, unlike Queensland, it does this through specific policies rather than legislation. Its Strategic Regional Land Use policy, introduced in 2012, identifies two categories of land needing greater protection:
- Biophysical land that is highly suitable for agriculture because of its combination of natural resources; and
- Critical industry clusters containing concentrations of highly productive inter-related industries that contribute to the identity of that region and provide significant employment opportunities.
Regional Plans are used to identify strategic agriculture land. As in Queensland, because these regional plans cover large geographical areas, a clearly defined set of criteria has been developed to allow resource companies to undertake site specific assessments to determine whether the section of land needed for their activities meets the strategic land definition. The final decision on this rests with the Gateway Assessment Panel – an independent panel of experts, including ag. scientists, groundwater water experts etc.
As noted earlier, both the Queensland and NSW systems contain shortcomings. But they offer the basis for developing a new approach to strengthening land access protections for cultivated land in SA in the face of mounting pressure from resource companies.
Date: 22 April 2021