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Protection from local government charges and rates: Coal Seam Gas (CSG) petroleum exploration and production

Are you the owner of rural land in Queensland which is subject to Coal Seam Gas (CSG) petroleum exploration and production?  If so, you may want to revisit the terms of the land access agreements you have signed with CSG companies to make sure you do not foot the bill for any increased rates, fees and charges applied to their properties arising from CSG activity taking place on your land.

Recently, the Queensland Land Appeal Court delivered its decision Western Downs Regional Council v Geldard [2020] QLAC 1. In that case, the owner of certain rural land used the land only for rural purposes, but that land was also subject to petroleum uses by the CSG company which owned CSG infrastructure on the land.  The Council applied a rating category to that land known as 431 Petroleum Other (>400HA) and not the rating category of 3/16 Rural.

The Queensland Land Appeal Court overturned the trial judge’s decision that had held in favour of the landowner and instead replaced that decision with one that held the land was within the rating category 4/31 Petroleum Other (>400HA) despite it being used for another purpose (grazing) and not falling within the rating category 3/16 Rural.

The reasons for the Queensland Land Appeal Court’s decision included that the rates applied to the land are a tax on the land and not on the owner of the land. Further, the rating categories are determined by the use of the land and not by any main or predominant use or activity on that land.  For land to be within the rating category applied to land subject to CSG extraction and associated activities, that land did not have to be exclusively or mainly used for CSG extraction or associated activities. It was sufficient that the land was subject to grazing and other agricultural uses by the landowner.

The Queensland Land Appeal Court also held the local government authority had lawfully exercised its power to levy differential rates to land according to its use within its local government area.

Therefore, it is important for owners of land which is subject to CSG infrastructure and activities, to review their land access agreements to ensure adequate protection against liability for any increase or application of local government authority fees, charges or rates by reason of CSG infrastructure and activities occurring on the land.

We recommend seeking legal advice as to what remedy you may have if your land access agreements do not contain that protection.

Please contact Waanda McCarthy who heads up our Land and Resources Team on (07) 4637 6300 at Toowoomba or 07 4622 1944 at Roma, or click here to send a direct enquiry.

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