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Regional Planning Laws Passed

Posted on 15 April 2014

Source: GasFields Commission Queensland

Key rural and landholder groups have welcomed the passage of new regional planning laws that seek to introduce a clear and equitable process to assess resource developments in regional Queensland.The Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 also includes a new statutory role for the GasFields Commission to provide advice on applications for resource activities to be carried out in a priority agricultural area identified in a regional plan.

The Act introduces a new system of regional planning across Queensland, with regional plans for Central Queensland and the Darling Downs already in place, the Cape York Regional Plan in draft form and plans for other regions to be rolled out progressively.

Announcing the passage of the new laws, Deputy Premier, Hon. Jeff Seeney said these regional plans establish the over-arching principles that will apply to consideration of future development in a region and will reflect the vision and wishes of the local community.

The plans recognise and protect the following four areas of 'regional interest':

  • Priority Agricultural Areas
  • Priority Living Areas
  • Strategic Environmental Areas, and
  • Strategic Cropping Areas (formerly Strategic Cropping Land).
"Under the proposed Act, a resource or other regulated activity can only occur in these areas if the proponents reach agreement with a landholder, or if a Regional Interest Development Approval is granted," Mr Seeney said.

Response from rural and gas groups

Queensland Farmers Federation CEO Dan Galligan said the new laws put at the forefront of resource development the very sensible notion that landholders in priority agricultural areas should have their say on how coexistence might occur.

Chairman of the Central Downs Irrigators, Graham Clapham said the legislation provides a huge step forward for landholders in redressing the power imbalance that currently exists in land access arrangements and gives some landholders an equal say in what actually will occur on their land.

In a statement, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) said while it is continuing to work through the detail of the Bill and Regulation, the framework is an example of what can be achieved when government shows strong leadership and there is a mature discussion between the gas and agricultural sectors on how each industry can coexist and succeed.

New role for Commission

The GasFields Commission also has a new statutory role in relation to new regional planning laws.

Section 7 of the GasFields Commission Act 2013 (Commission's functions) has been amended to reflect this new statutory role.

It requires the Commission to respond to requests for advice from the chief executive of the Department of State Development, Planning and Infrastructure under the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 about assessment applications under that Act.

The Commission will be required to provide advice to the chief executive about the ability of landholders, regional communities and the resources industry to coexist within the area that is the subject of the application.

The Queensland Government also released an exposure draft of regulations to the Act for further consultation. For more information on the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 and the draft regulations visit the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning website.