Protecting Landowner Rights amidst an energy infrastructure boom

3 November 2022

Matthew Dunlop | Rees R & Sydney Jones

Matthew Dunlop

Solicitor, Energy & Environment

The Central Queensland region, particularly around Gladstone, is a hot bed of energy production in Australia.

With it comes a variety of government departments and private companies wanting to enter your property to secure parcels of land for the construction of pipelines and other infrastructure. But what are your rights as a landowner in situations like this?

Do I have to let someone onto my land?

In some cases you may already have an easement over your property enabling an infrastructure project to proceed at some point. If you do, the owners of the easement will have the rights to enter your land, but the terms of that easement should contain entry and conduct requirements and other rights and obligations of the parties.

If there is no existing easement over your property, then you will be in an ideal position to negotiate entry and other conduct requirements in order to protect your rights. These requirements should be agreed to in writing. At the early stages, those wanting to enter your land may request the agreement be either:

  • a Land Access Agreement;
  • an Option for an easement or lease in the future;
  • an easement; or
  • all of the above.

It is important to seek independent legal advice before signing anything. You are entitled to request time to seek legal advice. Agreements can quickly become complex, and you can negotiate certain conduct terms to protect your interests in regard to the taking or using of any portion of your land. These can include notice to be given before someone enters your land, access tracks that are to be used or created, compliance with your Biosecurity Management Plan, and rights to continue using the portion of land before and after the infrastructure is built.

Do I get compensated?

You are entitled to compensation should any portion of your land be needed for the construction of infrastructure.

One landowner’s loss is very likely to be different to their neighbour’s, and compensation is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Some of the things you need to consider when exploring what compensation you should negotiate are:

  • What is the value of your land and the portion being secured?
  • Does the securing and/or use of the portion of the land impact the value of the rest of your land?
  • Will you experience a loss of production and income from the portion of land being secured?
  • Will other people pose any risk of loss of production or income due to breaches of your biosecurity requirements?
  • How close will any infrastructure be to your residence?

These are just a few examples of what may be considered when negotiating compensation. It’s imperative that you seek independent legal advice before signing to ensure you will be appropriately compensated.

What are the first things I should I do if someone wants to enter my land?

Maintain written records of any discussions as early and as often as possible. Negotiations to secure land for this type of infrastructure can take months, sometimes years, and can become complicated. While memories of discussions may fade, written notes of what is discussed can be relied on in the future.

Do not sign your rights away without proper consideration and legal advice. You are entitled to request time to seek legal advice. Without legal support, your entitlements to compensation may be overlooked, and circumstances may arise which the agreed terms do not adequately address. The written agreements securing land for infrastructure projects are almost always registered on title, and are effectively in place forever. Always seek independent legal advice before signing any legal document.

If you’ve been approached by a government department or private company regarding access to your property, our dedicated team of energy, environment and agribusiness lawyers are here to help you protect your interests. Contact us today.

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