IN the wake of an online petition that has collected over 19,000 signatures, the state government has extended the timeframe that Wandoan landholders have to respond to an application by QGC to remove potential Strategic Cropping Land status from a large number of properties in the district.
Landholders received the news from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines that “due to the extensive nature of the application and concerns from affected landholders that the submission period was not sufficient to prepare and lodge a comprehensive submission”, the department considered it reasonable to exercise the discretion provided under the SCL Act and extend the period for submissions to September 12.
After landholders heard the news that they had only 21 business days to prepare a response to QGC’s application, Rebecca McNicholl set up a petition urging QGC to give people more time.
Many of the online signatories express a general opposition to CSG activity.
Queensland Country Life understands that about half the affected 72 landholders had made a submission by the original August 22 deadline.
One of those is Harry Perrett, who has about 40 per cent of his property falling under the SCL rules.
He said it had been good to see the government respond to pressure and acknowledge that landholders were at a disadvantage in responding in a timely manner to QGC’s “sledge hammer” approach of lodging a validation application over such a large parcel of land.
As well as wanting to make the point that such an impersonal approach wasn’t appreciated, Mr Perrett said some of his argument was with the state government for setting what he called unrealistic parameters for farmers to meet to attempt to prove their SCL status.
It’s a concern shared by Property Rights Australia, who say there are inequalities in the draft regulations that should be rectified.
According to vice president Dale Stiller, in the western cropping area which includes Wandoan and much of the Surat Basin, there is a slope criterion of 3pc, while the criterion for the rest of the state is 5pc.
“The Regional Planning Interests Act has passed through parliament but the associated regulations are still before a parliamentary committee,” he said.
“The government should be mindful of the implications of the regulations they put in place, with companies prepared to operate just inside the law and be dishonourable in their dealings with landholders.”
Mr Stiller would like to see professional costs incurred by landholders in determining the status of their land refunded by resource companies, as occurs now under Resources Act conduct and compensation agreements.
“It is imperative that a ground truthing process be undertaken, not the tick and flick from Brisbane that QGC has tried to pull off, and that resource companies refund the landholder with professional costs,” he said.
Minister Andrew Cripps said the state government was committed to striking the right balance between economic development and the environment.
Responding to questions about the size of QGC’s application, Mr Cripps said that applications over large areas and multiple properties were permissible under the Strategic Cropping Land Act.
He added that the minimum 21 day submission period was introduced under the former Labor government in 2011 through the Strategic Cropping Land Act.