Not a single mining or gas project slated for Queensland’s best agricultural land has been refused since planning legislation was changed five years ago, according to new analysis.
The Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (Qld) (RPIA) was introduced by the Campbell Newman Government on a promise to ‘address the power imbalance between farmers and resource proponents and quite rightly prioritise agricultural activity on what is a finite and critical resource for Queensland’.
However, a new expert legal review of 42 resource approvals granted under the RPIA since 2014 has found that not one has been rejected.
These approvals have been granted for resource activities in mapped priority regional interest areas, including priority agricultural areas, strategic cropping land, priority living areas, or strategic environmental areas.
The proposed Moreton Resources coal mine on prime farmland at Kingaroy is an example of how badly this regional planning system has failed. The mine would sit on mapped Strategic Cropping Land on some of Queensland’s most fertile soils, just 6km from Kingaroy.
John Bjelke-Petersen, son of former Premier Joh and Senator Flo Bjelke-Petersen, runs cattle and a bed and breakfast from the family’s history “Bethany” homestead. Should it be approved, the mine would be built immediately adjacent to “Bethany”.
“This is a crazy place to put a mine,” Mr Bjelke-Petersen says.
“We’ve got some of the best soils in the region. Our soils and our climate allows us to grow virtually just about anything here in this part of the world.
“This kind of country, this prime agricultural land, should be off-limits for mining, but we have the real prospect of this amazing area being opened up for coal extraction.
“We’ve seen what’s happened in the Hunter Valley and to communities down there with the affect of mines on prime farmland and in close proximity to townships and the same will happen here if governments allow this to go ahead.”
Farmers and community groups across Queensland are now coming together to launch a new initiative, called Plan to Grow, seeking to reform regional planning laws to ensure that key farming areas and other important regional assets are protected into the future.
The campaign launch also comes at a time when Darling Downs farmers are concerned the Queensland Government may approve a mining lease for the New Acland coal expansion on some of the best farming land in the state.
The project has produced a short video, which includes interviews with farmers like Mr Bjelke-Petersen, and others from the Kingaroy and Wide Bay Burnett region.
Wide Bay Burnett cane farmer Judy Plath said, “We want changes to regional planning laws to make sure communities have a stronger role in helping our regions be the best they can be.
“We want laws that protect our best agricultural land, communities, and ecological and cultural assets.”