Lock the Gate Alliance has released its Queensland election wishlist ahead of the October poll, and has pointed to the lack of protection for agricultural land around Kingaroy as a prime example of how current planning laws are failing Queensland communities.
Kingaroy farmers and community members have been forced to fight off four separate resources projects during the past decade, all which tried to carve up some of the best strategic cropping land in the state - land that is meant to be protected under state planning laws.
The most recent victory was over Moreton Resources, which entered voluntary administration in July this year after wanting to destroy farmland renowned for its peanuts, corn, and carrots to build a coal mine just six kilometres from Kingaroy’s CBD.
Key to Lock the Gate Alliance’s election requests for whoever forms government post October 31 is that the state’s Regional Planning Interests Act (RPIA) be solidified so Queensland’s best agricultural land, like that at Kingaroy, becomes permanently off limits to coal and gas.
The Alliance is also arguing that important historical and cultural heritage sites, towns, and areas of significant environmental value be permanently protected under the RPIA.
Just 11 percent of the state is currently mapped as priority areas (ie Priority Agricultural Areas, Strategic Cropping Areas, Special Environmental Area or Priority Living Areas) under the RPIA, yet 37% of that area is still under threat from existing coal and unconventional gas tenements.
Should it have been built, the Kingaroy coal mine would have been constructed immediately adjacent to the historic “Bethany” homestead, owned by John Bjelke-Petersen, son of former Premier Joh and Senator Flo Bjelke-Petersen.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen, who operates a cattle farm and bed and breakfast on the property, said the multiple resource proposals mooted for the region over the past decade had created a “stressful” environment for many locals.
“It created a lot of uncertainty, as far as the fact that no one knew what the situation would be in the next day, next week, or next year,” he said.
“People in the farming game, we need certainty to be able to plan to grow our industries.
“We need to be certain governments are backing us and ensuring we are able to sustain what we’re doing as far as providing for the crops and produce for the nation.
“It is imperative that priority agricultural land is protected. One thing’s for sure, there is no more of it being made - once you lose it you lose it forever. Governments must ensure the sustainability of our cropping land. We need it to be protected.”
LTGA Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said, “Kingaroy is just one example, dozens of Queensland communities are facing a similarly uncertain future and they are fed up with our current weak planning laws that allow mining and gas companies to do pretty much whatever they want, wherever they want.
“Not a single mining or gas project slated for Queensland’s best agricultural land has been refused by the government under the Regional Planning Interest Act since it was brought in six years ago.
“Whoever forms government in November this year must remedy this atrocious situation.”
The Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (Qld) (RPIA) was introduced by the LNP 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”.
But an expert legal review conducted late last year of 42 resource projects planned over RPIA classified land since 2014 has found that not one has been rejected by the government.
Lock the Gate Alliance’s other requests of political parties in the lead up to the Queensland election include:
Ensure that regional priority areas immediately at risk from mining and unconventional gas are permanently protected, including the floodplains and rivers of the Channel Country, and the rich farming land of Kingaroy, the Dawson river, Acland, and Bundaberg.
Provide landholders with an unequivocal legal right to say no to CSG operations on their property and to withdraw from current agreements without penalty in light of new evidence that unconventional gas operations will prevent farmers gaining access to public liability insurance.
Amend the Conduct & Compensation Agreement process to ensure gas companies fully indemnify landholders against any risk gas infrastructure poses to their farm businesses including contamination of soil as well as surface and groundwater.
Institute a strict cap on any direct or indirect take of water from the Great Artesian Basin for mining and gas in order to protect the nation’s most precious water resource.
Remove the statutory right to water for mining and gas projects so that communities have a say in planning how water resources are allocated.
Reinstate protections for groundwater under the Environmental Protection Act that include considerations for intergenerational equity and the precautionary principle.
Finalise the implementation of mining rehabilitation reforms by improving and extending the reforms to the gas industry to better ensure that gas companies are forced to deal with their own toxic legacy and Queenslanders are not left to bear the risks.
Develop a strict new waste regulation regime to apply to the gas industry and end self-regulated re-use proposals which put rivers and farming country at risk from the toxic chemical waste the industry produces.