Queensland is rich in agricultural, mineral and fuel resources. At times, this creates challenges for the agriculture and resource sectors to manage the interaction between these critical industries. To assist with this ongoing relationship, the Queensland Audit Office has recommended the GasFields Commission Queensland review the coal seam gas (CSG) assessment process identified under the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (Qld) (RPI Act). The review will determine whether the process adequately manages CSG activities in areas of regional interest, the land classifications provided by the legislation are consistent and adequate exemptions are available in the assessment process.
In Queensland, we continue to see the permanent loss of the best farmland from industrial uses, urban sprawl, services, utilities, and mining. The Queensland Farmers’ Federation is concerned the RPI Act does not currently provide the level of certainty and strength of protection that is needed to ensure remaining areas of high-quality agricultural land are safeguarded from inappropriate development.
QFF has welcomed the GasFields Commission’s review and is serious about developing a state-based approach to properly address planning and better protect Queensland’s agricultural land. With submissions closing this week, we have outlined our concerns that the purpose of the RPI Act does not protect regional interests; exemptions for Regional Interest Development Approvals are too broad; a lack of certainty for landowners and independent oversight; and Inconsistent mapping across the state.
QFF wants to see strict, clear, non-discretionary prohibitions on inappropriate activities in key areas of regional interest; that proponents of proposed projects in areas of regional interest obtain a regional impact development approval before applying to obtain other major approvals; the removal of uncertainty, including around public notification; and the introduction of meaningful public consultation processes and third-party appeal rights to increase transparency.
Consistent and meaningful planning outcomes for agriculture are necessary to ensure the best agricultural land remains available for food, fibre, foliage production. With an increase in resource activity in recent years, and demands on agriculture increasing, vigilance is needed to ensure agriculture land is treated as the irreplaceable commodity that it is.