Gas exploration and access to farm land

With the moratorium on exploration of on shore gas resources being lifted in the northern regions of the State, oil and gas companies are now seeking access to farming land to determine the location and size of reservoirs.

If you are approached by a petroleum explorer seeking access to your land, it is important that you understand your rights and consider the impact that exploration may have on your farming operations.

We have prepared this article to assist farmers in the initial stages of dealing with land access requests.  In later articles in this series, we will discuss (in further detail): land access agreements, compensation for land access and what happens when access and compensation cannot be agreed.

Landowner’s rights

Petroleum activities in Western Australian are governed by the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 and related regulations.

Some key provisions to be aware of are:

It is important that the agreement between a landowner and Operator is fully and accurately reflected in a written contract.  In 2015, Bailiwick Legal assisted with the development of a model agreement to assist farming landowners and petroleum operators to determine and document fair and equitable terms for access.  See: https://www.appea.com.au/media_release/oil-and-gas-and-farming-industries-endorse-new-framework-for-coexistence-in-western-australia/ for copies of the agreement template and supporting information.

Can access be denied?

Access can only be denied in very limited circumstances.  Where the land is:

the landowner has the discretion to withhold consent to access for exploration.

Negotiations – things to consider

1.  Operator’s proposed activities

When considering a request for land access, it is crucial to understand exactly what activities the Operator is proposing to carry out, where these activities will take place, and a timeline for such activities.

These activities may include carrying out surveys, drilling and rehabilitation, and the construction of required infrastructure (such as roads, gravel pads, bores, workers quarters, fencing, power supply networks and wells).  You should consider how intrusive each activity is likely to be, and seek confirmation of the likely time period for each.

2.  Impact on your farming operations

It is equally important to consider your own farming program.  Exploration activities may impact your farming operations by requiring the relocation of stock or to stop cropping activities, effecting water supplies and access on your farm and /or creating security, biosecurity and safety hazards.

3.  Minimizing the effects of exploration on your land

We suggest that you prepare a comprehensive plan of your current and future farming operations prior to finalising any agreement for land access, so that you may properly consider the impacts of exploration, and the measures available to minimise disruption and loss.

Some measure to consider include:

Seeking Professional Advice

Under the model agreement, Operators are liable for the reasonable costs of a landowner seeking advice, including legal, financial or technical advice, in relation to a land access agreement and/or proposed exploration activities.  If approached, we recommend that you seek professional advice to assess, negotiate and document access and compensation arrangements.

By Kim Jones (solicitor) & Philip Brunner (director)

If you would like assistance with negotiating the terms of a land access agreement, or for further information in relation to how the above matters may affect your farming operations, please contact us on (08) 9321 5451 or by email at kim@bailiwicklegal.com.au or phil@bailiwicklegal.com.au.

For further information about our legal services, please visit our website: https://www.bailiwicklegal.com.au/

The above information is a summary and overview of the matters discussed. This publication does not constitute legal advice and you should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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