THE establishment of a mining ombudsman and stand-alone planning legislation to provide greater protection for agricultural land were two of the key recommendations handed down by a parliamentary investigation into land access issues.
The bipartisan Select Committee on Land Access made six recommendations, following an extensive information-gathering process, which included meetings with farmers, mining companies and community groups across the state.
Committee chair and Member for Frome Geoff Brock told state parliament the recommendations were made not to favour either agriculture or the resources sector and he implored both major parties to implement the recommendations if they were to win next year's election.
"Where access is sought and the landowner objects, the conflict should be resolved by a process of negotiation in good faith, including fair compensation for loss," Mr Brock said.
"The resource industry, as the instigator of these matters, should be accountable for its actions, respectful of landowners' rights and environmentally responsible."
As well as establishing an ombudsman to oversee and enforce regulation of exploration in line with the Mining Act (1971), and the development of legislation based on Qld and NSW land access regimes, the committee recommended resource companies be required to consult with landholders neighbouring an exploration site.
It was also advised money available to a landowner for the cost of seeking legal assistance be increased from $2500 to $10,000.
Rounding out the recommendations was the advice to increase the notice of entry period from 42 days to 90 days, while the newly-established mining ombudsman would simplify documentation associated with land access, which the committee says can be "very complex and overwhelming for landowners".
The state government reviewed and updated facets of its Mining Act last year, with the changes coming into effect in January.
Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan told Parliament the committee's recommendations were largely in line with what his government were doing.
"We have consistently said that we would make improvements, essentially in bite-size chunks, to deal with what can be dealt with, put it in place and then move on and deal with the next set," he said.
APPOINTING an independent commissioner to monitor rehabilitation efforts made after a mine's closure should form part of proposed stand-alone legislation for land access, according to Arthurton cropper Bill Moloney.
Mr Moloney said of the recommendations made by the Select Committee on Land Access, the establishment of a mining ombudsman and stand-alone legislation, and a requirement for exploration companies to consult with adjoining landholders, would be the most significant.
He said stand-alone legislation would be important because it had the potential to distinguish between different land uses and the value of said land.
"The vast majority of farmers and their families feel like they've got a duty of care to look after and protect the remaining productive agricultural land for the benefit of the state and future generations," he said.
"Unfortunately with climate change, reliable food growing land will become more scarce and with the vast mineral resources in the outback, wouldn't it make more sense to develop more mining in that area and leave food producing land to do what it does best?"
YP Landowners Group's Joy Wundersitz said the committee's call for the Department of Environment and Water to map SA's existing land use, to develop land access legislation informed by NSW and Qld regimes was well received and overdue.
"Both these states have legislation and policies in place specifically designed to protect their sustainable agricultural land from inappropriate resource development," she said.
"The introduction of a separate agricultural act to balance the existing Mining Act would provide an innovative, best practice land access regime which, for the first time in this state's history, would take into account the need to ensure the long-term viability of the agricultural industry, as well as the mining industry."
PRIMARY Producers SA will be calling on both major parties to implement changes recommended by the Select Committee on Land Access.
PPSA chief executive officer Caroline Rhodes welcomed the report, saying it addressed the imbalance faced by farmers when dealing with exploration companies.
"Of greatest significance is the proposal to strengthen the independence of the regulatory regime, through the establishment of a new mining ombudsman," she said.
"Coupled with additional reforms outlined by the select committee, PPSA welcomes a renewed focus to protect agricultural land and measures to improve the Landowner Information Service."
While Association of Mining and Exploration Companies' chief executive officer Warren Pearce acknowledged competing interests needed to be balanced to ensure ongoing benefits from mining and agriculture, he said many of the recommendations "pre-judged" the effectiveness of recent reform made by the state government.
"The new legislation needs to be given sufficient time to be tested before a meaningful review of its effectiveness can be undertaken," he said.
"Industry remains committed to working with government and other stakeholders to ensure that engagement with landowners respects their needs and rights, and supports a co-operative approach."
Mr Pearce said an important acknowledgement the committee had made was that a right of veto on land access would not be appropriate.
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