Queensland’s first Land Access Ombudsman has now been in place for a year, and Ombudsman Jane Pires’ experiences have been varied, but positive.
“We arrived at an interesting stage in Queensland’s agriculture and resources relations - some regions have years of experience with resources exploration and production, while others are learning what that might mean for them for the first time,” Ms Pires said.
“Feedback from the community, before and after we opened, has been that a service like ours was much-needed - I’ve been met with both ‘where were you 8 years ago?’ and ‘I’m glad to know you’re here if I need you down the track.’”
The Office of the Land Access Ombudsman opened in September 2018, offering a free, independent alternative to legal action or government conferences for resolving land access disputes related to Conduct and Compensation Agreements, or Make Good Agreements. Since then, the Ombudsman and her team have heard from both landholders and resource companies, and undertaken several preliminary and full investigations to resolve disputes.
Though specific details around cases are confidential, outcomes include one landholder receiving the repair works they’d been seeking for several months, and another agreeing to re-allow access to the resources company in order to rectify a number of issues.
Common issues have included biosecurity and washdown compliance, damage to property and equipment, impaired access, and either party generally feeling disrespected. Ms Pires said most of these are often the result of communication breakdowns and poorly set expectations.
“Sometimes a landholder won’t feel empowered to – or know that they can - set conditions that work for them during negotiations, or land access managers change, or either party won’t fully educate their subcontractors on the conditions of the agreement,” she said.
“Repairing these lines of communication is a top priority for us when we’re helping resolve these disputes. You’re business partners in this, and often locked in for decades to come, so we want you to have the best chance of a productive working relationship moving forward. If needed, we’ll keep an investigation open to ensure this happens – we don’t just hand down recommendations and walk away.”
Ms Pires also acknowledged there are a number of factors leading to landholders not wanting to seek the Land Access Ombudsman’s assistance, but urges them not to suffer in silence.
“We know that you don’t want to make a fuss and complain, or that you’re worried the process will be long and complicated – and between work and the weather, you’ve got enough to think about,” she said.
“But we keep things as efficient and informal as possible, and can come to you if necessary. Starting the process now can get it off your chest and into our hands to save time and stress later. Even if you’re not sure if we can help you, give us a call and we’ll let you know, or direct you to who can.”
For more information or to contact the Land Access Ombudsman, visit www.lao.org.au or Freecall 1800 717 500.
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Jessimin Horder – Communication Officer, Office of the Land Access Ombudsman
0421 692 496
Last updated 02 Oct 2019