28 November, 2013

 

Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – Australia – Environment 

 

The introduction of the Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 (Qld)


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

  • The Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 (Qld) was introduced into Queensland Parliament on 20 November 2013.
  • The Bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Committee for State Development, Infrastructure and Industry for consideration. The Committee must report to Parliament on the Bill by 17 March 2014.
  • When enacted, the Bill will ensure that regional planning interests set out in statutory regional plans will be implemented for resource activities by establishing a process for obtaining approvals for such activities in areas of regional interest.
 

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

 

  • The proponents of mining and petroleum projects should review their existing and proposed activities to determine whether the Bill, when enacted, will affect their activities.
 

Introduction


On 20 November 2013, the Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013 (Bill) was introduced into Parliament. The Bill is the new legislation foreshadowed in the Darling Downs Regional Plan and Central Queensland Regional Plan made on 18 October 2013.


When enacted, the Bill will:

 

  • give effect to the policies about matters of State interest which are set out in regional plans; and
  • ensure that the matters of State interest set out in regional plans are taken into account in managing the impact of resource activities and other regulated activities by establishing an approval process for such activities in areas of regional interest.
 

Areas Of Regional Interest


The Bill establishes the concept of areas of regional interest, which are defined as:

 

  • priority agricultural areas;
  • priority living areas;
  • strategic cropping areas; and
  • strategic environmental areas.
 

Priority agricultural areas, priority living areas and strategic environmental areas are identified on maps in regional plans or prescribed under a regulation.


Strategic cropping areas are areas identified on SCL trigger maps as strategic cropping land or potential strategic cropping land.


As strategic cropping areas are identified as areas of regional interest in the Bill, the Bill will repeal the Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011 (Qld). Transitional provisions are included in the Bill to deal with existing applications and decisions under the Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011 (Qld).

 

When An Approval Is Required?


The Bill provides that a person cannot carry on a resource activity or a regulated activity in an area of regional interest unless:

 

  • the person holds, or is acting under, a regional interests authority for the activity; or
  • the person is carrying out an exempt resource activity.
 

The Bill defines the term “regulated activity”, for an area of regional interest, to be an activity which is likely to have an impact on the area of regional interest and which is prescribed under a regulation for the area.


Resource activities are defined to include activities which, to be lawfully carried out, would require a mining tenement or approval that grants rights over land under the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld) (MRA), a petroleum tenure under the Petroleum Act 1923 (Qld) or a petroleum authority under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld) (P & G Act).


There are a number of provisions in the Bill which detail which are exempt resource activities. Notably, exempt resource activities include pre-existing resource activities carried out under:

 

  • a work program for activities under an authority to prospect under the Petroleum Act 1923 (Qld) or P & G Act; or
  • for the activities under a mining lease under the MRA or petroleum lease under the P & G Act, a plan of operations given to the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

It should be noted that changes or expansions to preexisting resource activities would not fall within the exemption set out in the Bill.


Regional Interests Authorities


The Bill sets out a process for obtaining regional interests authorities. That process includes provisions about the following:


1. the making of applications;

2. the requirements for making an application, including the information which must accompany an application;
3. the public notification of certain applications, including the manner and form of any public notification;
4. the making of submissions about applications;
5. the referral of certain applications to additional assessing agencies;
6. the criteria for deciding applications;
7. the nature of decisions about applications, including the conditions which can be imposed on approvals; and
8. appeals to the Planning and Environment Court against a decision about an application for a regional interests authority.


The Bill also provides that the conditions of a regional interests authority prevail over the conditions of any other authority. Further, the Bill includes amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) which will allow the administering authority under that legislation to amend an environmental authority for a resource activity or regulated activity if it is inconsistent with a regional interests authority for the activity.


Enforcement Provisions


Finally, the Bill includes provisions creating offences and allowing for enforcement action to be taken where resource activities have commenced without a regional interests authority or where there is non-compliance with the conditions imposed on a regional interests authority.


Where To From Here?


The Bill has been referred to the Parliamentary Committee for State Development, Infrastructure and Industry for consideration. The Committee must report to parliament on the Bill by 17 March 2014.


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For further information, please contact:

 

Caroline Ammundsen, Partner, Ashurst
[email protected]


Glenn Wilshier, Ashurst

[email protected]

 
Ashurst Environment Practice Profile in Australia 

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