On 3 November 2016 the Stock Route Network Management Bill 2016 (“Bill”) was introduced to the Queensland Parliament proposing, its supporters argue, a single contemporary Act to better support the long term management of Queensland’s extensive stock route network comprising an area of 2.6 million hectares. The Bill is currently being considered through the parliamentary committee process and is expected to be debated in the House in early 2017.
Currently, the stock route network is administered under three Acts, namely:
- Stock Route Management Act 2012;
- Land Act 1994; and
- Transport Infrastructure Act 1994.
The Bill will bring the existing legislation into one package and its proponents argue that this will reduce duplication and provide clarity, consistency and simplicity for Queenslanders who use and manage the stock route network.
On an objective assessment, the main benefits of the proposed legislation would appear to be:
- establishing a single point of entry (ie local governments) for stock owners seeking approvals to move and graze stock on roads and reserves;
- reducing regulatory burdens on councils and providing them with greater ability to administer and maintain the stock route network;
- minimising the impact of livestock on areas of the stock route network that support biodiversity and are culturally significant to Queenslanders;
- consolidating and removing duplicated or overly prescriptive legislative provisions; and
- providing for all funds generated by the use of stock routes and reserves to end up back at local government level for investment in the network.
Producer organisations, including AgForce, argue that they have identified a number of deficiencies with the Bill including:
- because Queensland has 44 local government bodies, the likelihood of inconsistencies across Councils in terms of allocating sufficient resources and having the will to address issues such as weeds and overgrazing;
- the lack of state government oversight to ensure that local governments manage the stock route network effectively;
- the absence of an intermediary (such as a stock route supervisor) between the local government and the Minister if a stockowner takes issue with or is aggrieved by a decision of the local government in respect of a stock route matter;
- the handing over of responsibility for managing stock routes to councils is happening at a time when some councils have little or no interest in the extra burden of managing an effective stock route network; and
- councils being unsure if the fees they will receive from stockowners are going to be sufficient to cover the costs of managing the stock route network properly.
The general consensus seems to be that there is broad support for handing the management of stock routes back to local government, but until some accurate modelling about the viability of councils taking on this additional obligation can be done, the benefits that the proposed legislation will deliver to the various stakeholders will be the subject of on-going debate.
This information is intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice.