Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Ron Bellingham
Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Ron Bellingham

Draft to protect agricultural land

SOUTHERN Downs landholders are being implored to familiarise themselves with draft legislation, which is designed to protect agricultural land, but could have a huge impact on their ability to build infrastructure.

While the Strategic Cropping Land Draft State Planning Policy has been pitched as being a scheme to protect our best farmland from mining and other industry, the fine print raises some serious questions.

Landholders' options will be limited if their property is proved to be on Strategic Cropping Land under the scheme and infrastructure, say a packing shed of greater than 700 m2, could no longer be constructed.

Of more concern is the “exceptional circumstances” section of the policy which states the applicant will need to prove.

“There is no alternative non Strategic Cropping Land site available for the development, and that the development represents a significant community benefit.

“A development is a significant community benefit if it presents a scarce or overwhelmingly significant opportunity or benefit to the state, which is more significant than the state's interest in preserving Strategic Cropping Land resources from permanent alienation.

“This could include a social or community service, or an economic benefit to the state.”

The application fee to apply for exceptional circumstance is $46,253, which would be prohibitive for many producers but small change for mining companies.

Natural Resources Minister Rachel Nolan yesterday insisted the rule would only apply in “extraordinary circumstance” but anti-mining groups suggest it sounds eerily like a get-out clause for mining companies, with the State Government reaping the benefits of royalties.

For Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Ron Bellingham the wording of the plan must be reconsidered and more importantly the community must take the time to understand its potential consequences.



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