The Queensland Government has begun public consultation on proposed changes to "coexistence" institutions and coal seam gas (CSG) induced subsidence management.
The proposed new management framework for CSG-induced subsidence is modelled on the existing framework for managing the impacts of resources industry developments on groundwater.
Although landholders have established rights to compensation from CSG tenement holders that cause subsidence, the difficultly and expense of proving the cause of subsidence when it occurs has become an obstacle to justice for affected farmers and graziers.
The new framework would include:
- The Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment monitoring CSG-induced subsidence in declared areas and regular reporting;
- tenure holders within particular areas collecting baseline data at least 12 months prior to commencing CSG production if within three kilometres of a “farm field boundary”, developing a subsidence management action plan in consultation with the landholder and entering into a new agreement with the landholder based on the subsidence management action plan (potentially as part of a conduct and compensation agreement); and
- tenure holders providing a risk assessment to landholders at least 20 business days prior to commencement of a proposed activity.
The same review is considering expanding the Land Access Ombudsman’s dispute resolution functions to a broader range of land access disputes including disagreements over proposed conduct and compensation agreements or the new subsidence agreements.
The Queensland Government proposes to rename the GasField Commission “Coexistence Queensland” and give it greater focus on “educating” landowners and tenement holders who, in Queensland, are forced to coexist.
It is disappointing that the Queensland Government has not put forward more meaningful reforms to better balance the bargaining power between landholders and resource tenement holders in land access negotiations. Without such reforms, we are not sure that the amount of education coming from the GasFields Commission is the issue.
Feedback on the Government’s proposal is due by 8 December 2023 and can be submitted here.
Thynne + Macartney’s agriculture lawyers have extensive experience in negotiating land access agreements for landholders confronted by mining and CSG projects.