The Northern Territory Government has recently announced a new process for land access agreements between the oil and gas, and agriculture industries.

Northern Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles, said the new process to establish land access agreements strikes a balance between the rights of resource companies to explore and the rights of landowners to be advised, informed and consulted before exploration begins.

Mr Giles said, “Mining, petroleum and agriculture are critical to the ongoing economic development of the Northern Territory,

“This process recognises that mining and petroleum companies need to work together with pastoralists for the future prosperity of the Northern Territory.”

The new process includes the establishment of a land access agreement for the exploration activities that are considered to create more disturbance and requires the lodgement of a Mining Management Plan or Petroleum Environment Plan.

Within the new process, if agreement over conditions for land access cannot be reached within 60 days by mutual consent, the matter will then be referred to an arbitration panel to be made up of high level government and industry representatives.

This panel will arbitrate between the parties for a successful agreement within 21 days of the formation of the panel and once agreement has been reached, the Department of Mines and Energy may approve the Mining Management Plan or Petroleum Environment Plan.

Mr Giles said the Department of Mines and Energy has developed a best practice framework for explorers when negotiating access agreements with landholders that ensured a balance between the interests of pastoralists and resource companies.

“These enhanced stakeholder engagement protocols provide added structure to any existing land access arrangements that may exist,” Mr Giles said.

“From a handshake to a fully documented process, this process recognises that individual property managers, mining and petroleum companies need more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

“Pastoralists will be provided with the opportunity to gain early knowledge of what may be planned by the explorer, and for both parties to discuss appropriate shared land-use arrangements that allow respective activities to take place without undue inconvenience or disruption,” Mr Giles said.

Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) CEO, Tracey Hayes, welcomed the announcement.

“The government has listened to the concerns raised by the pastoral industry and the broader community,

“Access agreements will give pastoralists a greater say over what happens on their land and their capacity to manage things such as access, water resources, biosecurity, soil erosion and relationships when miners and oil and gas companies enter their properties,” Ms Hayes said.

Ms Hayes said the new process is a significant milestone for the future of the pastoral industry and rural communities in the Northern Territory.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) and the Minerals Council of Australia – Northern Territory Division, also welcomed the process.

APPEA Director, Steven Gerhardy, said the process would help deliver positive outcomes for pastoralists and petroleum explorers seeking access to their properties.

“Under the new process, both parties will be required to reach a land access agreement prior to the approval and commencement of exploration activities,” Mr Gerhardy said.

Mr Gerhardy said more than 50 pastoral stations, representing almost a quarter of the NT cattle industry, have already negotiated land access agreements with oil and gas explorers.

“Experience shows that when landholders and explorers talk about their plans and activities, identify issues and work together to find solutions, everybody benefits. It’s really about building relationships based on trust and mutual respect,” Mr Gerhardy said.

Executive Director of the Minerals Council of Australia – NT Division, Drew Wagner, said the new process to develop land access agreements will allow all parties to know exactly where they stand.

“As mining is the second largest industry in the Territory, contributing almost $2.7billion to the economy, it is critical that certainty is created to allow for greater investment, and we can see growth of this and the pastoral sector in the future on behalf of all Territorians across leasehold land,” Mr Wagner said.

Mr Giles said the continuing good relations between landholders and explorers required recognition of the rights and responsibilities of both parties and establishing good communication.

“Access agreements will provide a mechanism for certainty for resource companies and for pastoralists who will continue to manage the land for many generations to come,” Mr Giles said.

“All resources (minerals, oil and gas) are owned by the Territory and the Territory has the right to authorise the exploitation of those resources.

“All Territorians also benefit from royalties paid by companies and the economic development associated with these resources.

“This new process highlights the importance of both the resources and the agriculture sectors to the future economic prosperity of the Territory,” Mr Giles said. 

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