Queensland to prevent mining in strategic cropping areas
Key food-growing areas in Queensland will be protected immediately from mining and other development under an Australian-first policy.
Food bowls in parts of the Surat Basin in southern Queensland and the Emerald and Springsure region have been granted the highest level of protection as Strategic Cropping Land Protection Areas.
Environment Minister Kate Jones said the move, the first of its type in Australia, will ban mines that would make the land unusable for farming.
"As of today, resource development projects, such as mining, that are not well advanced in the approvals process will be subject to the full effect of the legislation to be introduced later this year," she said in a statement," she said.
"The protection areas... have been defined as they are under intense and imminent development pressure."
Ms Jones said the laws should prompt miners to redesign their projects so they can co-exist with farming land.
But allowances would be made if the resources cannot be found anywhere else in the state.
Outside these protection areas, defined as management areas, projects will need to avoid permanently destroying cropping land and mitigate any unavoidable impacts.
The Protection Areas have been defined as they are under intense and imminent development pressure.
The Southern Queensland Protection Area will give soils in the Darling Downs, the Granite Belt, the Lockyer and Fassifern Valleys and the South Burnett region the highest level of protection from mining, urban development and other permanent, high impact projects.
Outside these Protection Areas - defined as the Strategic Cropping Land Management Area – projects will need to avoid permanently rendering cropping land unusable and mitigate any unavoidable impacts.
Other key components of the Strategic Cropping Land policy framework include:
- A trigger map covering much of the eastern side of Queensland up to the north of Cairns will be used to indicate where strategic cropping land is most likely to exist. Proponents will need to undertake an on-ground assessment, against eight scientific criteria, to determine whether a site is in fact Strategic Cropping Land;
- Land assessments for cropping land will be an open and transparent process with the community able to comment and provide any evidence as part of the assessment process. Proponents will incur the costs of on-ground assessments;
- The Management Area will include all land covered by the trigger map, outside the Protection Areas;
- Allowances will be made for proposed mining projects that are already well advanced and have met certain milestones in the assessment process. These ‘transitional projects’ may be allowed to proceed on strategic cropping land, but those without final environmental approvals will still be required to avoid, minimise and mitigate any impact on Strategic Cropping Land; and
- The Queensland Government will soon release a Draft State Planning Policy to ensure development approvals, planning schemes and regional plans include appropriate consideration of strategic cropping land.
Miners would need to assess the land using eight scientific criteria to clarify if it is good cropping land and needs protecting.
A Regulatory Assessment Statement on the strategic cropping land framework for public consultation has been released for comment.
The Regulatory Assessment Statement assesses the cost recovery options and recommends that development proponents incur the costs and the fees associated with the land assessment process, if they wish to seek approval to locate their development on strategic cropping land.
The release of the draft State Planning Policy for public consultation will be the next step towards implementing the policy.
Details of the policy announcement, including maps, can be found on the DERM website at www.derm.qld.gov.au