LANDHOLDER rights will be further eroded when dealing with resource companies under the proposed Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Regulation 2015, a Rockhampton lawyer warns.
Property partner at South Geldard Lawyers Brad Beasley, is urging landholders and property groups to be aware of the new legislation and speak up.
The public has until Monday, January 19, 2015, to make comment on the Common Provisions Regulation, which is the first regulation implementing the provisions of the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act 2014 (MERCP Act). It is expected to start in early 2015.
According to the Department of Natural Resources and Mining, the new provisions are intended to provide extra protection for landholders, while reducing red tape.
The new regulations, however, will see the distance for restricted land set at 200 metres and the introduction of opt-out agreements that would do away with the need for formal conduct and compensation agreements (CCA).
"Landholders should voice their concerns to government about the 200-metre restricted land distance, as it is not in their interests to have resource activities this close to their homes, buildings or valuable property infrastructure," Mr Beasley said.
The previous calls for a buffer zone of 600 to 1000 metres had been ignored, he added.
"While opt-out agreements sound good in theory, unless the landholder is extremely experienced in negotiating with resource companies, an opt out agreement could see a landholder left high and dry without many of the protections set out in a CCA.
"Even though opt out agreements will have a 10 business-day cooling off period, generally our experience is that only in few instances are cooling off periods used."
Property Rights Australia (PRA) has also criticised the bill, saying the property rights and principles of natural justice of landowners would be severely compromised by many of the proposed changes.
"The balance of power between miners and landowners has always been in favour of miners at the expense of landowners and this bill has provisions that will disadvantage landowners," said chairman Joanne Rea in PRA's submission.
The proposed bill has confirmed that "directly affected" landowners are only those within the footprint or who provide access to a mining lease.
"Our worst fears have been realised," Ms Rea said.
"The effects of some mining projects are so wide ranging that PRA would contend there are many neighbours, and even non-neighbours, who will be more directly affected than many simply offering access."
Ms Rea said landowners had also pleaded with government to lengthen timeframes to respond to mining leases and environmental authorities.
Landowners were further disadvantaged by the limited notification, concurrent timeframes and short timeframes to respond to applications by companies, who employ professional document preparers, readers, negotiators and solicitors.
This also applied to the increase in negotiable areas such as restricted areas and opting out of a CCA, Ms Rea said.
"It is a cynical exercise to claim that property owners have certain rights or enhanced rights if they have no time or ability to exercise them."
PRA pointed out that the certificate of public notice, currently issued under the Mineral Resources Act, would be further restricted under the new bill and no longer required to
be published in an approved newspaper in the area.
"Communities are greatly impacted by resource projects and have a right to be notified and the opportunity provided to make objections," Ms Rea said.
"These provisions are a denial of natural justice."
PRA noted there were a few positives in the bill, which were overshadowed by far too many negatives.
The positives included CCA to be noted on the relevant property title by the registrar of titles; resource authority holder to enter into a CCA with owners and occupiers on neighbouring land, including off-tenure land; the Land Court may give regard to the behaviour of the parties in the process leading to the application; public road authority given the power of resource companies needing written consent to use roads and can give direction of the use of the road and a compensation agreement to be signed.