Case sets precedent for landholders
IT was a "David versus Goliath" victory that has set a precedent for landholders' rights to detailed information when resource companies access their properties.
Central Queensland grazier Michael Baker fought not just the Queensland Government's processes but delivered a thorn into the side of a 500km pipeline from Chinchilla to Gladstone worth more than $20 billion.
The landmark case, heard in the Queensland Supreme Court, ruled void the former mines minister Stirling Hinchliffe's decision to grant coal seam gas giant QGC forced access to Baker's Eidsvold property.
The former minister had granted "Part 5 permission" - which forces access and potentially opens the door for land resumptions under the Petroleum and Gas Act - after Mr Baker would not settle a deal for access.
Mr Baker's legal team submitted during court proceedings that he never received a precise location and construction activities planned for the proposed pipeline route on his land and therefore had no opportunity to make submissions on it inside a 20-day consultation period.
QGC argued it had already agreed to realign the pipeline's route on the property and bury it deeper, at Mr Baker's request, "despite the significant extra cost".
Justice Jean Dalton said Mr Baker's property rights were directly affected if a Part 5 permission were granted and there had been a "lack of procedural fairness to him".
She determined Mr Baker received confirmation of the pipeline's actual route two days before the consultation period ended and noted a perceived threat to revert to the original pipeline if he did not agree to it.
"The realigned pipeline was nowhere shown on the material in the application and the map showing the original pipeline was at such a scale as to be meaningless to someone trying to ascertain where exactly the proposed pipeline land would run over Mr Baker's property," she said.
"The distance over which the pipeline is proposed to run across Mr Baker's property is considerable.
"I am not persuaded there was sufficient time for Mr Baker to understand the import of the information as to the proposed Part 5 land in the two business days available to him."
A spokesperson for the Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said the department would provide comment on the Supreme Court outcome after "a full examination" of the judgment.
QGC will lodge a new application immediately.
A spokesman for the company said only when an impasse with Mr Baker could not be handled after 18 months of negotiation did QGC use the Part 5 permission.
"Of all the 120 other private landholders covering nearly 99% of the 540km pipeline route, Mr Baker is the only landholder with whom QGC has not agreed access," he said.
The spokesman said he expected no delay to the project, expected to employ 1000 during construction.