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Queensland introduces Land Access Ombudsman

Queensland landholders and resource companies now have an independent umpire to help resolve disputes over negotiated agreements.

Under the legislation introduced on Tuesday, the Land Access Ombudsman will provide a faster, free alternative to legal action for industry and landholders.

“Agriculture and resources are both critical sectors in the Queensland economy and the two activities must often co-exist,” said Minister for State Development, Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham.

“An independent review of the existing arrangements found dispute resolution options were limited when gas companies and landholders couldn’t resolve issues over their conduct and compensation and make good agreements.

“These agreements apply across coal and mineral resources, as well as gas and petroleum, so the new Land Access Ombudsman will be able to assist where a conduct and compensation agreement or a make good agreement has been entered into.”

Conduct and compensation agreements outline the activities undertaken by the resource authority holder and any compensation that applies, while make good agreements outline how resource companies will restore any water bores affected by their activity.

The proposed ombudsman will provide a free service to resolve alleged breaches of these agreements.

This service will be available to:

  • The owners or occupiers of private land and resource authority holders who have a conduct and compensation agreement; and,
  • The owners of an impaired bore and resource tenure holders who have a make good agreement.

The Land Access Ombudsman will be able to:

  • Facilitate the resolution of referred disputes that are within its jurisdiction;
  • Give advice to the parties and make non-binding recommendations as to how a dispute could be resolved; and,
  • Recommend the relevant department investigate a possible offence, or a possible breach of a resource authority that is related to land access.

The bill has been referred to the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Parliamentary Committee for consideration and report back to Parliament by 7 August.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) welcomes the Queensland Government’s move to establish a Land Access Ombudsman to support co-existence between natural gas and agriculture.

APPEA Queensland Director Rhys Turner said the Ombudsman would provide an alternative to court action should any disputes arise.

“Queensland continues to show the way in ensuring that natural gas and agriculture work and succeed side-by-side,” Mr Turner said.

“The gas industry works with thousands of landholders and good working relationships are essential. We don’t see evidence of widespread issues, but if there are any disputes industry and landholders need a balanced, timely, transparent, and accessible process to resolve them.”

In the past five years, more than 5000 land access agreements have been successfully negotiated and more than $238 million paid to landholders.