Land Access

Land-owners and Native Title

Under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000, 'notice of entry on land' needs to be served on the owners of the land. This is deemed to include native title parties who have procedural rights under the Commonwealth I. Section 24MD(6A) of the Native Title Act 1993 applies in respect to the following procedural rights: 'The native title holders, and any registered native title claimants in relation to the land and waters concerned, have the same procedural rights as they would in relation to the Act on the assumption that they instead held ordinary title to the land concerned and to land adjoining, or surrounding, any waters concerned.'

Protected Areas

The total area of protected land (i.e. land proclaimed or reserved for conservation purposes) within onshore South Australia is 209 400 km2.

The areas are administered by the Department of Environment and Heritage under the National and Wildlife Act 1972, CrownLands Act 1929 and Wilderness Protection Act 1992. Approximately 73% of onshore protected areas allow access for petroleum and geothermal exploration and development.

The legislation is designed for conservation purposes, but there are provisions for joint proclamations and regional reserves both of which allow access for mineral, petroleum and geothermal exploration and development. Where access is excluded, this includes subsurface access as well as surface access.

Conservation reserves, under the Crown Lands Act 1929, identify land environmental values, ostensibly for soil protection under the Act. There are no specific legislative restrictions to mining, petroleum or geothermal access in these reserves, although they signal that a higher than normal degree of scrutiny will be applied for any proposed activity in these areas.

Heritage agreements, agreements entered into between landowners and the Minister for Environment and Conservation, are attached to the title of the land and provide protection to native vegetation on private land. These agreements are established under the Native Vegetation Act 1991, and are administered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Access requirements for mineral, petroleum and geothermal exploration are dependent on the tenement type.

Jointly Proclaimed Parks

A joint proclamation allowing mining rights in the mechanism under Section 43(2) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 which provides for the Governor to proclaim conditions whereby rights of entry, prospecting, exploration and mining may be acquired for national parks and conservation parks. This is qualified by Section 43(5), which states that such a proclamation cannot be made unless:
(a) it allows for continuing rights vested in a person immediately before commencement of Act
(b) the proclamation is made simultaneously with the proclamation constituting a reserve

Mineral exploration and mining activities are possible only with the approval of the Minister for Environment and Conservation as per the conditions of the park proclamation and in accordance with the management plan for the park.

This is also the case for petroleum and geothermal exploration and production, except where an exploration licence was in force immediately prior to proclamation of the park. In this case, the proclamation may allow application for production licence without approval of the Minister of Environment and Conservation.

Many recent additions to the reserve system have been made under joint proclamations, which allow existing rights to continue and future rights to be acquired. This means that there are some parks where access may be available to some parcels of land but not others within the park due to existing tenure.

Regional Reserves

The 1987 amendments to Section 334 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act  provided, amongst other matters, for a new multiple-use classification of reserve called regional reserve. This classification provides for the conservation of wildlife and the natural or historic features of the land while, at the same time, permitting use of its natural resources.

Petroleum, geothermal and mineral exploration activity may take place provided that they are subject to controls consistent with the management plan for the reserve. Mineral, petroleum and geothermal exploration licence applications for areas within regional reserves are processed by the Department of State Development but must be referred to the Minister for Environment and Conservation for comment. Exploration work programs are discussed with the Minister for Environment and Heritage as matter of policy.

In the case of production tenements, approval must be given by the Minister for Environment and Conservation. If ministerial agreement with the Minister for Minerals Resources Development cannot be reached in a particular case, the issue is referred to the Governor for decision.

Under Section 40(a) of the National Parks and Wildlife Act, the ministers may enter into an agreement with the holder of the a geothermal exploration licence granted in relation to alnd that is, or has become, a regional reserve which imposes conditions limiting or restricting the exercise of rights under the tenement by the holder of the tenement and by his or her successors in title.

In all other respects exploration and production in regional reserves are carried out under the provisions of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 and regulations.

Geothermal and petroleum exploration take place in a number of regional reserves, and much of the current petroleum produced from the Cooper Basin originates from within the Innamincka Regional Reserve.