Teaching Law

Friday, 15 May 2015

Landholders' right to refuse: Protecting property

Landowners may get the right to refuse entry to miners

Senator Larissa Waters has introduced a private members bill into the Senate to deal with the stand off between landowners and miners, and to stop fracking. The Landowners Right to Refuse (Gas and Coal) Bill 2015 ('Bill') seeks to achieve two aims (section 3):

  • To stop hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) by constitutional corporations; and
  • To require informed landholder consent to entry onto land for the purpose of gas and coal exploitation.
The legal issues underlying the Bill’s aims are twofold. First is the Commonwealth power to legislate for land use and mineral exploitation, both of which are a state concern. I won't be dealing with this issue here, assuming the Commonwealth's corporations power enlivens its jurisdiction.

Of interest to me is the second question, of framing rights between two interest-holders in the same land: the miner and the landholder. Miners’ rights are directly derived from the State and are an expression of the bounds of the State’s original grant of land. Therefore this second question potentially involves redistribution of the boundaries of ownership between the State and the landholder. I have made a submission to the Senate Environment and Communications Committee that focuses on the latter issue of distribution of property rights between miners and landholders, and the purpose of the Bill in terms of property. I use Queensland law to illustrate my argument.