Newsletter 07-05-2013

Members’ Newsletter

7th May 2013

The PRA board is planning to send out a series of newsletters in the lead up to our 10th annual conference.

The conference will be on June 15th at the Highfields Cultural Centre, O’Brien Road, Highfields, Toowoomba.

Please mark this date on your calendar and book your accommodation; we would very much like to see you there.  The next newsletter will have details about conference speakers.

Registration for the conference will commence at 8.30am.  Prior registration to the office by interested members would be appreciated.  The conference will commence at 9.00am.  The AGM will begin after the completion of the conference.

Vegetation Management Act

The following is a statement about the reforms by the Queensland Government to the Vegetation Management Act.  This statement was prepared by PRA chairman Joanne Rea with consultation with the previous chairman, Ron Bahnisch.

Hats off to Premier Campbell Newman for having the courage to make much needed reforms to the Vegetation Management Act.  With many of the worst attacks on our civil rights such as reversal of the onus of proof, denial of the right to silence and mistake of fact, to be reversed.  These rights have long been considered basic principles of the Westminster system and their removal has received criticism from jurists and legal academics.

The Queensland government has acknowledged that it will not stay in power without the support of the South East corner and that a well organised and vocal environmental front will seek to portray any reforms as environmental vandalism.  We are mindful of that.

Property Rights Australia (PRA) appreciates and applauds the reforms made on behalf of rural Queenslanders by the Newman government.

The Vegetation Management Act 1999 had almost 400 amendments with about half being retrospective.  Clearly it was hastily drafted and unworkable.

The prosecution of the Act was shambolic with the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and its predecessors completely forgetting that as a government agency it was required to be a model litigant which requires it to adhere to the highest standards of probity and fairness in its conduct of litigation.  It is also required to spend taxpayer’s money with due cause and due process. 

Many who believed they were innocent were charged but were unable to field the resources to challenge against the might of the State.  Charged but exonerated were landowners such as Ashley McKay who had a legal permit to clear.

Using taxpayer funds to chance their arm and to the ire of some Magistrates the Department brought cases which were out of time, where correct certified vegetation maps as specified by the legislation were not produced and one case where a government officer was charged with contempt of court.  Other examples can be found of cases where fabrication of evidence and perjury were a feature.

Fines have been exorbitant and appear to have been administered in an ad hoc manner, with the penalties being many times higher than mining companies are commonly required to pay under other environmental protection regulations.  Given the stress and financial hardship caused to landowners by these regulations, the amendments to this Act are well overdue and much appreciated.

Property Rights Australia has long advocated the necessity for reform and we are prepared to defend the Amendments against criticism in any forum

Mining and Coal Seam Gas

PRA maintains contact with a number law firms who are able to provide specialist advice on different matters of law as it affects landowner’s rights.  In this newsletter we include news items from two of these law firms.  The second is from a personality well known to PRA members, Phil Sheridan.

First some important advice from Tom Marland of Creevey Russell Lawyers about water “make good” provisions in an agreement with any mining or CSG company.

Our experience is that CSG companies are not being fully transparent to landholders as to the anticipated impacts and also their rights in relation to entering into an agreement. It is important to obtain independent advice with those with experience in the area.

 Some of the tips that landholders can use include:

 Enter into a ‘Make Good’ agreement with companies ‘before’ activities commence.

 Establish clear characteristics of the bore, its capacity and recharge rates.

 Request companies undertake a ‘pump test’ on a bore if it is essential to the operation of a property ie. Irrigation  Establish clear trigger thresholds.

 Establish ‘cut off’ limits where if reached further investigation is required.

 Establish clear make good arrangement and alternative water sources.

 Need to establish clear ground rules and avoid an adverse event occurring in the first place.

 Important to remember: underground water is a complex issue.  If something does go ‘pop’ often difficult to prove what caused it and who to pin the blame on.

To read the four page document from Creevey Russell click on this link.

A note from Phil Sheridan


Joanne Rea

Joanne Rea, Chairman

Property Rights Australia

Phone:  07 49213430
Fax:       07 49213870