The Queensland Parliament has introduced a Bill for the creation of a Land Access Ombudsman who would facilitate the resolution of disputes about conduct and compensation agreements and make-good agreements. The Land Access Ombudsman Bill 2017 came as a result of Mr Robert Scott’s government commissioned review of the Gasfields Commission Queensland. The Bill also contains provisions to save existing provisions contained in the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Transitional Regulation 2016 which is set to expire in September 2017.
Under Queensland’s current land access legal framework, resource companies seeking to conduct mining activities are required to enter into a conduct and compensation agreement with landholders prior to entering land and carrying out advanced activities. These agreements would specify the activities that may be undertaken on the land as well as the negotiated compensation arrangements made between the parties. Further to this, in 2010 the government introduced a framework requiring petroleum tenure holders to monitor and manage the impacts caused by the exercise of underground water rights on water bores. This would include the making of make-good agreements to compensate private bore owners for any impairment caused.
The Land Access Ombudsman will be created under the Bill as an independent statutory office whose primary function will be to help resolve disputes between landholders and resource companies that are parties to conduct and compensation and make-good agreements. According to the Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Anthony Lynham:
The Ombudsman will not be an alternative to the Courts or other processes of arbitration as the Ombudsman will not have the power to make binding decisions on the parties. However, the Ombudsman will have the power to compel documents and information from parties in order to ensure that they have access to relevant information to facilitate the dispute. The Land Access Ombudsman will also be able to identify systemic issues arising out of disputes and provide advice to government about these issues.
Ideally, once the Bill passes, the Ombudsman will give parties to these agreements a trusted, easily accessible and independent person to help resolve problems before it further escalates into legal actions.
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Land Access Ombudsman Bill 2017, Bill, Explanatory Notes and Speech as published on LawOne
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