Frequently asked questions
Read specific frequently asked questions for each of the following main stakeholder groups:
General questions and answers regarding the policy and legislation are also provided below.
- What is strategic cropping land?
- What area of the state does the SCL legislation apply to?
- What are permanent impacts and who will assess them?
- Where are the protection areas and why were they chosen?
- How will the SCL legislation affect the coal seam gas industry?
- Does the SCL legislation apply to urban areas?
- What is the role of the Science and Technical Implementation Committee?
- What is the role of the Community Advisory Group?
- What is an 'exceptional circumstance'?
- What is the purpose of the two-year review of the legislation?
What is strategic cropping land?
Queensland's best cropping land - strategic cropping land (SCL) - is a finite resource that must be conserved and managed for the long-term benefit of all Queenslanders.
Currently, the state's SCL resources are subject to a range of competing land-use activities, including agriculture, mining and urban development. Some of these activities can permanently impact this land, making it unavailable for cropping.
Criteria for identifying SCL will be used in the on-ground assessment of areas shown on the trigger map. These criteria are specified in the Strategic Cropping Land Act 2011 (PDF)*.
Development on areas confirmed to be SCL will be subject to the requirements of the legislation.
What area of the state does the SCL legislation apply to?
The SCL legislation applies to approximately 42 million hectares of Queensland, or about one-quarter of the state's landmass. Within this area, the trigger map identifies some 7.49 million hectares (4.34 per cent) of the state as areas where SCL may exist and where developers will need to undertake an on-ground assessment using the proposed criteria.
Within this area, the two protection areas apply to a total of 4.78 million hectares (2.77 per cent of the state), of which 1.84 million hectares is identified on the trigger map as areas where SCL may exist. The management area covers some 37.2 million hectares (21.54 per cent) of the state, 5.6 million hectares of which is identified on the trigger map.
What are permanent impacts and who will assess them?
Permanent impacts occur when a use located on or near SCL will endure for 50 years or more, and prevents cropping during that time or in the future.
Examples may include:
- where a legal impediment prevents land from being used for cropping (e.g. covenants for carbon forests or voluntary declarations)
- permanent plantations
- urban development
- resource extraction activities that endure for longer than 50 years
- resource extraction activities where long-lasting impacts occur that mean the land cannot be restored to its former SCL status and thus prevents cropping (such as new construction, subsidence, major excavation, changes to the soil structure or contamination of the land).
Permanent impacts will be assessed and determined by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) as the authority administering the SCL legislation. For resource developments, the legislation sets out the types of activities that will be deemed as those that permanently impact SCL. For urban developments under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, the new State Planning Policy 1/12: Protection of Queensland’s strategic cropping land provides information and guidance on activities that permanently impact SCL.
Where are the protection areas and why were they chosen?
Two protection areas are identified in the legislation:
- the southern protection area, which includes the Darling Downs, Lockyer Valley, Granite Belt and South Burnett
- the central protection area, which includes the 'Golden Triangle' region of Central Queensland near Emerald.
These areas were chosen as protection areas as they are areas of the state that are under intense and imminent development pressure, and contain large aggregations of the state's best cropping land.
The boundaries of the protection areas are based on defining large contiguous areas of valuable cropping land. Where possible, these boundaries have been aligned to features such as rivers, State forests, local government boundaries and property boundaries.
How will the SCL legislation affect the coal seam gas industry?
Developments, including coal seam gas (CSG) operations, proposed on SCL will be assessed under the legislation.
Well-designed CSG operations may be able to be accommodated under this legislation without permanently impacting the land. For example, gas wells and pipelines are usually considered to have a temporary impact, as the land can be restored back to its former SCL condition when the development ends. This type of infrastructure carried out in an appropriate manner may be able to proceed on SCL.
However, high-impact CSG infrastructure such as water storage ponds and gas compression stations may permanently impact SCL and a proponent would not be able to undertake these activities in protection areas, except in limited 'exceptional circumstances'.
In the management area, proposed developments would be assessed to ensure that they make all reasonable efforts to avoid and minimise any impacts on SCL. Proponents will be required to mitigate their impacts if CSG infrastructure is unable to avoid SCL and is likely to cause permanent impacts.
It is important to recognise that some CSG companies are already making positive efforts to structure their developments in a way which facilitates co-existence with SCL. For example, there are CSG proponents who have committed to actions such as:
- increasing the spacing between wells and adopting a flexible approach to the placement of wells (for field development)
- undertaking a trial of constructing and restoring a transmission pipeline on intensively farmed land (for major pipeline development) using world-leading practices to demonstrate that soils can be removed and replaced in layers to maintain the existing soil profiles
- ensuring that the area can be rehabilitated with precision to minimise impacts on farming businesses.
Does the SCL legislation apply to urban areas?
The legislation does not apply to areas in the urban footprint under a regional plan or to areas that are included in existing urban zones in planning schemes. State Planning Policy 1/12: Protection of Queensland’s strategic cropping land will need to be applied to future designations of areas of SCL for urban purposes in regional plans and local planning schemes. This will allow urban designation of SCL, provided planning studies have considered alternative sites and demonstrated the land is required for urban purposes as a community need.
What is the role of the Science and Technical Implementation Committee?
The Science and Technical Implementation Committee has been established and is made up of four professional soil scientists—two put forward by the Australian Society for Soil Science Inc., and one each put forward by the Queensland Resources Council and the Queensland Farmers' Federation.
The committee will provide:
- technical advice on the implementation of the criteria for identifying SCL
- periodic scientific and technical advice on implementation of the policy (e.g. advice on restoration of cropping land in Queensland)
- a report on scientific and technical matters associated with the implementation of the policy as part of the announced two-year review of the legislation.
What is the role of the Community Advisory Group?
The Community Advisory Group will provide advice before the government makes a decision on expenditure from the mitigation fund. Funds will be targeted to activities that provide an enduring, public benefit and increase cropping productivity in areas affected by the loss of SCL.
The Community Advisory Group will be convened as needed. Advice will be sought from a range of sectors, including agriculture, rural, resources and local government, as well as other experts as required.
What is an 'exceptional circumstance'?
Proposed developments will not be permitted to permanently impact SCL in a protection area except in demonstrated 'exceptional circumstances'.
Developments that will be considered to be an exceptional circumstance will be rare and uncommon. The Minister may declare, in special circumstances, that a development presents a scarce or overwhelmingly significant opportunity to benefit the State.
The benefits may include a social or community service, or an economic benefit to the State that overrides the need to protect SCL resources from permanent impacts.
To be considered an exceptional circumstance, the development proponent must demonstrate that:
- for resource development, the resource is not found at an alternative site in Queensland which is not on SCL (e.g. a rare mineral only found in certain parts of the state)
- for development assessed under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, the development cannot occur anywhere else other than on SCL
- the development provides a significant community benefit to the State (e.g. a hospital or school).
Developments that are assessed as exceptional circumstances are still required to make all efforts to avoid and minimise any impacts on SCL, and mitigate any permanent impacts.
What is the purpose of the two-year review of the legislation?
The two-year review will ensure that the legislation is achieving the objectives of the policy.
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Last updated 21 December 2012