The Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 has always been a curious law, better known for the circumstances in which it does not apply than the circumstances in which it does.
The Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (RPI Act) obliges resource authority holders to obtain a Regional Interests Development Approval (RIDA) before undertaking mining or gas activities on those parts of Queensland mapped as “priority agricultural areas” or “strategic cropping areas”, unless an exemption applies.
The key exemption is in section 22 of the RPI Act and provides that a RIDA is not required if:
- the resource authority holder has entered into a conduct and compensation agreement (or another voluntary agreement) with the owner of the property on which a resource activity is planned;
- the activity is not likely to have a significant impact on the “priority agricultural area” or ” strategic cropping area”; and
- the activity is not likely to have an impact on land within a “priority agricultural area” or ” strategic cropping area” owned by another person.
Under the existing exemption, a resource authority holder is not required to notify the Government when the exemption is being applied nor is it required in the ordinary course to demonstrate that the impact of a planned activity will not exceed the relevant thresholds.
Proposed changes to the exemption would introduce “eligibility criteria”, with the effect that the exemption would apply where a resource activity:
- in a priority agricultural area will not exceed a 2% footprint of the land used for a priority agricultural land use on the property, will not have an impact on an existing or potential priority agricultural land use on another person’s property and will be undertaken in accordance with a hydrological report that demonstrates that there will be no impact on particular overland flow and drainage characteristics; and
- in a strategic cropping area will not have a significant impact on the strategic cropping land on the property and will not have any impact on strategic cropping land on another person’s property.
Resource authority holders would be obliged to provide details of resource activities being undertaken under an RPI Act exemption for publication on a public register. The register would include details of the authority holder’s own “code assessment” of its activities against the new eligibility criteria, including the anticipated impact on priority agricultural areas and strategic cropping areas.
The proposed changes also contemplate greater consultation between a resource authority holder seeking to claim the exemption and the owners of land adjoining the subject property.
However, the proposed changes do not propose to broaden the scope of the RPI Act beyond “priority agricultural areas”, “strategic cropping areas”, “priority living areas” and “strategic environmental areas”. The vast majority of Queensland, including most of its good quality grazing country, lies outside these areas. The RPI Act will therefore remain of relevance to only some primary producers.
Consultation on the proposed changes is due 8 December – feedback can be submitted here.
Thynne + Macartney’s agriculture lawyers use their knowledge of laws including the Regional Planning Interests Act to assists landholders to negotiate good outcomes when they are approached by resource authority holders.