Policy betrayal or SCL saviour?

CALLS from Queensland’s biggest mining lobby group to readdress the “flawed” soil science underpinning the soon to be legislated Strategic Cropping Land policy seem to have been heard by the State Government.

On Wednesday, Natural Resource Minister Rachel Nolan announced a new committee of scientists would be formed to provide independent scrutiny during testing to clarify whether land is SCL or not.

“At the heart of the Strategic Cropping Land legislation is the Bligh Government’s commitment that the soil science, which informs this comprehensive regulatory framework, is robust and accurate and can withstand independent scrutiny,” Ms Nolan said.

“It is for this reason I have moved to appoint the Strategic Cropping- Science and Technical Implementation Committee.”

The committee will be made up of four professional soil scientists, two put forward by the Association of Soil Scientists and one each by the Queensland Resources Council and the Queensland Farmers Federation.

But Member for Gregory Vaughn Johnson described the announcement as “window dressing” as long as the Minister retained the power to revoke protection with the stroke of a pen.

Mr Johnson said a lack of transparency in the ministerial actions concerning “special circumstances” had already led to widespread community perceptions of “special favours”.

“Every week sees new developments being promoted and new exploration permits granted over prime land covered by the government’s own protection maps. Emembi Downs, Springsure Creek, Meteor Downs, Springwood - the lists go on and on. It is heartbreaking and it is a betrayal of all Queenslanders.

“THIS showed how the whole intent of the legislation is cancelled out by the existence of these powers and the legislation itself becomes a worthless hoodwink,” Mr Johnson said.

“If it is not too late, as its first order of business perhaps that panel can examine the due process in the Bandanna Energy Golden Triangle decision.”

Alternatively, QRC acting chief executive Greg Lane applauded Minister Nolan’s announcement.

“Given the questions that were being raised about the science and the risk of these issues playing out in a courtroom, I applaud the minister’s commitment to ensuring the implementation of this policy is based on the best possible scientific advice,” Mr Lane said.

The Golden Triangle Action Group’s Kate Sullivan also welcomed the news, and believed the panel to be a “safeguard” overseeing the process.

Mrs Sullivan said GTAG had fears the exploration companies would be conducting soil testing on their own, so any independent panel preserving the integrity of the process was welcomed.

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