Vol. 40 No. 3 (2021): The University of Queensland Law Journal

Regulating Hidden Risks to Conservation Lands in Resource Rich Areas

Rebecca Nelson
University of Melbourne

Published 2022-01-23


Australia leads the world in formally dedicating private land to environmental conservation, helping governments protect critical biodiversity without straining the public purse. In Queensland, the booming resources sector threatens this biodiversity protection, even beyond landholders’ well-recognised lack of veto power over mining approvals on their land. Three structural legal biases increase this vulnerability. To differing degrees, Queensland’s laws assume that mining affects only land under or adjoining mining tenures, overlooking scientifically likely longer-distance impacts (‘boundary bias’); they emphasise protecting built and commercial infrastructure over ecological assets, overlooking significant investment in species and ecosystems (‘infrastructure bias’); and they allow consideration of proposed mining in isolation, without considering cumulative impacts on ecological assets (‘singularity bias’). Fortunately, Queensland law and policy precedents suggest potential corrective reforms.