About land access negotiation
In Queensland, all onshore gas companies undertaking exploration and development activities must comply with the State's land access laws.
An onshore gas operator accessing private land to undertake ‘advanced activities’, must negotiate with the landholder/s on a land access agreement, known as a ‘conduct and compensation agreement’ (CCA).
To assist landholders, the GasFields Commission has developed seven (7) tips for land access negotiations. While every landholder and every negotiation is different, these 7 tips are important to keep in mind. Please note these tips do not represent legal or professional advice.
More information can be found on the Business Queensland website.
1. Take Time
All landholders are ‘time poor’ running their rural businesses, but it is important to commit some time up front to understand the resource company you are dealing with and their proposed timeline and program for undertaking proposed activities on your property. There are mandated timelines in the Land Access Code for negotiations, but these can potentially be re-negotiated depending on circumstances. Taking time up front to get your advisory team in place is also critical. Time is money for landholders and it's possible to be compensated for this time as part of your negotiations on disruption to your business.
2. Get Advice
Land access is a complex negotiation that requires a good understanding of a wide range of disciplines including resource industry law and regulation, land valuation, natural resource economics and accounting. It is important you pull together your own advisory team and ensure they have the relevant skills and experience to effectively represent your interests. Under Queensland's Land Access Code, most ‘reasonable costs’ for professional advice are required to be reimbursed by the resource company. Also talk to neighbours and friends who have successfully negotiated and tap into their experience and insights.
3. Keep Talking
Like all negotiations, land access negotiations can hit roadblocks and can get stressful or frustrating at times. That's when it is important that both sides keep communicating to try to better understand each other's points of view and to identify possible solutions for a way forward. This is also when your advisory team, who are experienced in negotiating with resource companies, can make a big difference.
4. Think B2B
It is important to treat negotiations with resource companies like any other business seeking to operate alongside your existing rural business. Changing your mindset and approach to consider this as a business-to-business negotiation can sometimes help you to focus on potential opportunities for you and your business rather than just thinking about negative impacts and compensation.
5. Use Your Property Plan
Every landholder should have a plan for the future development of their property. It is important this plan is on the table when undertaking land access negotiations, to ensure that the resource company is well aware of your intentions for the future development of the property and your rural business. There may be opportunities within the negotiations for the resource company to better align their proposed infrastructure and to potentially share or contribute to some of the costs of your planned property development.
6. Measure Baseline Impacts
Land access negotiations are required to accommodate and compensate for any relevant impacts and disturbances to the underlying rural business. To help quantify and measure those impacts over time it is critical that you as the landholder keep a simple record of the state of your land, soils, pastures, weeds, vegetation, roads and rural infrastructure before and after the resource company undertakes activities on your land. Photographs can provide a useful record as well as using the services of agronomists or natural resource management specialists.
7. Key Contacts
In addition to your personal and professional advisory team there are other resources at hand including State government compliance and regulatory agencies who are empowered to monitor the activities of the onshore gas companies, such as the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy.