Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Changes to Land Access Laws Update

There is currently a lot of activity in our region in regards to mining and gas. This article looks at the land access laws for resource exploration that you may not yet be aware of.

Why are resource companies allowed access to my land to take resources?

In most situations, the resources that are located under the land do not belong to landowners. The law states that they generally belong to the people of Queensland. So ownership of natural resources like gas, coal, gold and minerals that are underground do not transfer to a purchaser who is buying a property.

Can I stop a resource company from coming onto my land to look for resources?

Provided that they possess the relevant authority and the correct entry notices are given to you, a resource company can come onto your land upon giving 10 business days notice unless you waive this right under an agreement.  They can only do this though, to conduct what is known as “preliminary activities”.  The activities that are described as preliminary are generally relatively minor. Should they wish to engage in “advanced activity”, which basically is any activity that breaks the top soil on your land, they will be required to enter into a compensation agreement with you.

How do I know which companies have authority to access my land?

The Department of Natural Resources and Mines now allows landowners to conduct searches on the internet which display reports for free. This allows you to see who has the right to explore on your property. This is an important tool for you to determine exactly who may have rights associated with your land.

What if a resource company says they want to say drill on my land, can I stop them?

If a resource company wants to conduct activities on your land that will cause an impact to your business or land use, then they cannot start those activities until they have signed a contract with you for compensation. You are legally entitled to be compensated for any loss you suffer.

Can I just refuse to sign any contracts – will that stop them coming onto my land?

No, it won’t. If you simply refuse to negotiate, the resource company might take you to the Land Court. The resource company can only do this if they have given all the proper notices and tried, to a reasonable standard to negotiate with you. Once the Land Court has issued their orders about compensation, the resource company would then be able to come onto your land.

You can however seek advice to ensure that you have considered all options before signing the contract.  Under the laws relating to land access, if a resource company wants a compensation agreement with you, then they are required to pay for any reasonable legal, accounting and valuation fees that you incur in sorting out your agreements. It therefore makes good sense to see a professional as soon as you are approached by a resource company.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Vegetation Offsets: a means of generating additional income while effectively managing your land.

All too often these days, landowners are being approached by resource companies seeking access to conduct activities that may disturb the landholder's grazing or farming enterprise possibly having a lasting negative impact on the land.  Recently, however, we have been assisting some landowners to enter into a new type of arrangement with resource and infrastructure companies that compensate landholders for managing the vegetation on their land. The companies engage landowners to manage the vegetation on their land in accordance with a vegetation management plan.

If your land contains quality regrowth or remnant vegetation, offsets may prove beneficial to your enterprise. Generally, areas suitable for offsets need to:
1. be larger than two hectares in size;
2. adjoin existing remnant vegetation; and
3. contain minimal weeds.

Under the Law, companies undertaking an offset project are required to secure their offset.  To do so, they will seek to enter into a legal agreement with the owner of the land on which suitable vegetation is to be preserved and managed.   In order to establish an offset area, a resource company will require security for the offset, usually by way of registration of a voluntary declaration on title. Furthermore, for the term of the agreement there will be restrictions on how you use your land.
For advice or information on vegetation offsets or for the review of any documentation, please contact Sarah Bell or Andrew Palmer at Rees R & Sydney Jones Solicitors on (07) 4927 6333.