Comments on state government's Strategic Cropping Land policy framework
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the policy framework for Protecting Queensland’s Strategic Cropping Land.
The Queensland Greens strongly support legislative protection for Queensland’s small proportion of lands suitable for cultivation and look forward to seeing it enacted as soon as possible following public consultation processes.
This section attempts to summarise the respective contributions of the mining and agricultural sectors to the Queensland economy.
It rightly acknowledges the latter’s need for access to lands to enable adaptation to changing domestic and international demands and the high level of employment that it generates. It should also acknowledge the long-term sustainability of this sector compared with the short-term nature of all mining ventures which usually have a limited life of 20 to 25 years.
The mining sector’s gross state-wide income should also includes its liabilities (such as permanently polluted and contaminated land and water sources), many of which the state government has not enforced against closed and failed mining companies but which in the 1990s were estimated in the billions of dollars.
Current estimates of the rehabilitation liabilities for all mines in Queensland are over $3billion.
Certainly the price the public has had to bear for state compensation of residents of Ipswich suburbs for land subsidence and cracking of foundations caused by past mining activity is easily quantifiable although relatively small and should be acknowledged.
The State Government still spends large amounts of money doing rehabilitation and remedial work on abandoned mines such as Mount Morgan.
Definition and mapping
Of great concern is the comment that the maps in Appendix A are expected to over-estimate the area of land matching the criteria for strategic cropping land (SCL).
The maps indicate how patchy areas of strategic cropping land are and mining in the unmarked sections adjacent to SCL could still cause immense harm of cropping areas. See S1 (pdf: Brisbane / Toowoomba region), S2 (pdf: Goondiwindi, Roma and Chinchilla) and C2 (pdf: Rockhampton / Emerlald), for examples of small patches of white are surrounded by the green of SCL.
The definition needs to include buffer zones of reasonable distance to protect re-charge areas adjacent to cropping land and to prevent coal, noise and traffic destroying the viability of farming operations.
Decision making process
The Greens cannot support the response to questions four and five in the third text box.
The notion that the impact of a development can be mitigated through conditions on the operation has in our experience failed in everyday life situations across Queensland.
Day in and day out, planning officials and local councils approve developments subject to stringent conditions but residents frequently find that both state and local government lack the resources to investigate and enforce breaches of conditions.
Harm has to be done on a significant scale before these everyday enforcement problems become large enough for the media to take interest and the level of government embarrassed into responding.
The present government cannot guarantee the employment levels and funding to regulatory bodies in the future yet this legislation is designed to put in place the framework for protecting agricultural lands in the long-term.
There is also the concern of approving with a condition of restoring at the end of the life of the mine or gas well.
The result is uncertainty and repeated conflict for communities affected by the development. Where there are negative impacts, it is clearer for the community and less expensive and taxing on the government to simply refuse the application.
Process for determining exceptional circumstances
Exceptional circumstances have not been defined. It would be so disappointing for this provision to over-ride all that the rest of the framework sets out to achieve.
We would like to see some specific criteria for exceptional circumstances by which the minister is obliged to abide.