Recently we have been running landholder workshops where we have looked at the computer mapping that is available for farmers. What’s been really surprising is that people are not aware about how much the government can see in relation to activity at the individual property level.
For example, the Government can see what a property owner has cleared. Every few weeks new records are being taken. This satellite imagery is also used to classify country but it not always correct. When it is wrong we assist landowners with applying to get back some more productive land by doing some map changes and getting them approved.
That got me thinking about other government changes in recent years some Queensland landholders may not know about.
Are you aware of the Queensland Nature Conservation Act?
Vegetation laws are about lots of vegetation, but the Nature Conservation Act which has been around for a couple of years is about special plants such as cycads. The other day we came across a special potato and a particular frangipani that was covered under the Nature Conservation Act.
You might have locked in your PMAV, (Property Map of Assessable Vegetation), which shows that your land is white. So you think that you can clear, but on your PMAV the special plants don’t show up.
There is a full report that you have to print out to make sure you’re actually not offending the Nature Conservation Act. We find a lot of people are not aware that this law is already in place and are very surprised people in regards to the blue trigger mapping.
What does the Chain of Responsibility Bill mean for Queensland landowners?
If a company does go insolvent and there are some issues in regards to cleaning up, the Chain of Responsibility bill will allow the Environmental Department of the Government to issue notices to holding companies or related persons in regards to the mine.
It means a company cannot just walk away and say “Hi, we are only paying one cent and a dollar and we don’t have any money to clean up the mess we made”.
There were some problems though; the drafting was very wide, probably because it was a bit of a knee jerk piece of legislation. It was rushed through in response to financial problems with coal mines and resource companies and with little consultation. There had been some heavy lobbying with regards to the wording of the bill.
Because related persons unfortunately caught the landowner who owned the land underneath the mine, so the way the Bill was drafted was that the Government could come to you and say “Hi, even though you objected to the coal mine that was going to be put on your land, we would like you to now clean it up”, and that is obviously undesirable.
A last minute change and the Act fixed this issue before it was passed. There is now a two year period where the Government is going to review and see if the legislation is performing the aims that it is supposed to.
Why Landholders may need to access the Surat Underground Water Impact Report
The Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment has a 300 page report called the Surat Underground Water Impact Report.
In 2012, the Government did one report in regards to the likely impacts of bores and underground water due to the activities of CSG operators. Because their plans change over time and their development locations change over time, the Government reviews that report and now there is a new report out.
The area is extensive covering Emerald down to Toowoomba and out to St George.
What the report shows is “cumulative impacted area”.
This refers to many activities going on there from different companies, it is no good looking at one company’s activities and saying “that’s what the impact will be”, because they’re all impacting water out of the same area. So, we look at it cumulatively. Within that area, bores are either going to be impacted within three years or they’re going to be impacted sometime soon but say not within three years.
Depending on whether you are within that three year impacted bore area or outside it, it will affect your legal right to a Make Good Agreement if your bore is impacted.
You can go online and put your bore number in and it will tell you if you are long term impacted or if you are impacted immediately, as in the next three years Depending on what the results of that bore number report are, will depend on your rights to get an agreement from a company to fix your bore if it does have an impact.
Another reason why you may want to go online and look at that report is maybe you are looking at buying a property in that area and maybe the bore looks good now. But you might be buying a place that the Government knows within the next three years you are going to have issues with water supply.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for property owners to be always up to date with Government changes. What is possible however, is the ability to obtain the information needed to make informed decisions. If in doubt seek advice. The investment of your time and money will be worth it to protect your assets and livelihood.