Legal development

Queensland Government backs Regional Planning Interests Act reform

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    Key Insights

    • On 1 November 2021, the GasFields Commission Queensland published its Review of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 Assessment Process Report.
    • The report made a total of seven recommendations for improving the Act's assessment framework, and focused on addressing concerns about the "agreement with landowner" exemption, improving guidance, and reviewing land use classifications.
    • In March 2022, the Queensland Government indicated its support for four of the recommendations, and its in principle support for the remaining three.  
    • However, the proposed reform – including legislative amendment – has not yet occurred.

    Review of the Regional Planning Interests Act 

    In early 2020, a Queensland Audit Office report identified stakeholder concerns about the effectiveness of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 (Qld), and recommended that the GasFields Commission Queensland review the Act's assessment processes.

    The Commission undertook targeted consultation in early 2021, seeking submissions from key stakeholder groups.  Its review sought to evaluate:

    • the assessment process and assessment criteria used to manage the impacts of coal seam gas activities in priority agricultural areas and strategic cropping areas;
    • the effectiveness of the implementation of the assessment framework;
    • the exemptions to the assessment process; and
    • the definitions and classification of agricultural land. 

    Key issues identified for reform 

    The Commission's consultation identified a number of areas for potential reform.  

    One of the key issues raised by stakeholders was the opaque nature of the "agreement with landowner" exemption in section 22 of the Act.  According to the report, the self-assessable nature of the exemption made it "impossible" to ascertain the extent of activities being undertaken in areas of regional interest, and whether the exemption requirements had been met.

    Submissions also described the Act's application and assessment process as coming "too late" in the broader project approval timeline.  While the Commission identified no legislative impediment to early applications, it found that the level of detail required by the administering authority meant that applications were possible only on the completion of other processes.  In addition to this being "too late" for many stakeholders, it also gave rise to real or perceived duplication.

    Finally, the report stated that stakeholders "were united in their views regarding land use classifications" under the Act, finding the current system "complex, inconsistent and imprecise".


    In response to these findings, the Commission made a total of seven recommendations, including:

    • replacing the "agreement with landowner" exemption with a self-assessment code requiring notification to the administering authority and publication in a register;
    • exploring pathways to allow earlier submission of applications under the Act at a more conceptual level;
    • State agency review of agricultural land use classifications as they relate to coexistence outcomes; and
    • updated guidance material for all stakeholders, including specific guidance for landowners.

    Government's response 

    In March 2022, the Queensland Government responded to the Commission's report, indicating its support for four of the recommendations, and its in principle support for the remaining three.

    Recommendations that had the government's full backing include: 

    • replacement of the "agreement with landowner" exemption, with the government proposing a "compliance-assessment" process rather than self-assessment; and 
    • updated guidance material.  

    Key recommendations that received in principle support included facilitating earlier submission of applications, and State agency review of land use classifications (to be led by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries).

    However, the government has not yet given any firm indication of anticipated timing for implementing this reform, and no amendment bills have been introduced or foreshadowed. 

    Author: Paul Wilson, Senior Associate

    The information provided is not intended to be a comprehensive review of all developments in the law and practice, or to cover all aspects of those referred to.
    Readers should take legal advice before applying it to specific issues or transactions.

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