EDO strongly supports legislation introduced by the Queensland Government on 18 June 2020 to provide for a new independent Rehabilitation Commissioner to oversee improvements and integrity in land rehabilitation from mining and other impactful activities in Queensland.
The Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 (Qld) amends the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) to provide for the new Rehabilitation Commissioner role. [i]
“We commend the Queensland Government for fulfilling their commitment to introduce this new role to oversee and ensure the integrity and quality of rehabilitation in Queensland,” said Senior Law Reform Solicitor Revel Pointon.
“For many years, effective rehabilitation of land and water bodies from destructive mining and gas projects has not been carried out effectively or at all, as recognised by the Queensland Audit Office in 2014. The introduction of the Rehabilitation Commissioner will help ensure the suite of measures being taken by the Queensland Government to strengthen our rehabilitation laws are effective and provide continued improvements to rehabilitation standards.
“This Bill provides strengthened accountability and transparency around actions of both government and proponents in undertaking rehabilitation to best practice standards. The independent Commissioner will provide annual reports on rehabilitation performance and trends, as well as developing and publishing reports on best practice rehabilitation methods and raising awareness of rehabilitation issues.”
The Bill also enshrines the new residual risk framework so that proponents cover costs of managing the site from the period from surrender of environmental authorities onwards, when the financial assurance is no longer held by government yet when risks can still arise as a result of the previous mining or other impactful activities on the land.
“Residual risk payments are an important means of protecting landholders and the government from any ongoing risks that may arise from significant activities on land once the proponent has walked away.
“Responsible operators would recognise the benefit of independent oversight over rehabilitation standards and activities in Queensland, and the necessity for operators to insure the government and landholders against risks their activities may continue to pose once they are long gone.”
“It’s great to see the Queensland Government taking rehabilitation seriously. This is a big step forward for Queensland’s land management practices, showing we care about the state of land we are gifting to future generations.”
[i] The Rehabilitation Commissioner will be tasked with:
- advising the Environment Minister on rehabilitation and management practices, outcomes and policies; and public interest evaluation processes and performance;
- developing and publishing technical and evidence-based reports on complex aspects related to the rehabilitation of land or best practice management of non-use management areas;
- monitoring, and reporting to the Minister on, rehabilitation performance and trends;
- consulting on, and raising awareness of, rehabilitation and management matters;
- chairing workshops and forums about technical, scientific or engagement matters.