Reach a land access agreement as a landholder

If a petroleum company wants to carry out certain activities on your land, they must reach a land access agreement with you.

This is required under the Petroleum Regulations 2020.

Land access agreement

A land access agreement is a legally binding document that sets out each party’s rights and obligations.

The agreement:

  • ensures that any search for petroleum respects your rights as a landholder
  • provides a level of protection so you can continue to operate with minimal impact.

Compensation

You have rights to compensation under the Petroleum Act 1984 for:

  • having the use or enjoyment of your land taken away
  • damage to the land or improvements caused by the petroleum company.

You also have rights to compensation under the Petroleum Regulations 2020 for:

  • each well a petroleum company drills on the land
  • any decrease in market value of the land caused by regulated petroleum operations.

A land access agreement must detail the minimum amount of compensation you are entitled to under the regulations.

You should get legal and accounting advice around tax and GST associated with compensation payments.

How the process begins

The steps below explain the negotiation process to reach a land access agreement.

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Negotiations begin when a petroleum company issues you with a notice advising that it wants to negotiate a land access agreement.

The notice will explain:

  • the petroleum interest the company holds
  • the type of activities it wants to carry out
  • when and where the activities will take place
  • how long they will take.

The company may also provide you with a draft land access agreement.

If you receive a draft agreement

If you receive a draft land access agreement, you should get a lawyer to review it. Agreements must contain minimum protections for you.

They include:

  • livestock disturbance
  • weeds, pests and diseases
  • access points
  • infrastructure
  • damage and repairs
  • legal liabilities and indemnities
  • costs and guarantees
  • compensation.

You may want to negotiate additional conditions or provide your own draft agreement. A lawyer can help you with this.

To find out more, read schedule 2 of the Petroleum Regulations 2020.

Find a current NT legal practitioner on the Law Society NT website.

Term of an agreement

The negotiation notice will state how long a petroleum company wants to access your land. You have a right to negotiate this term.

It cannot exceed the term balance of the company's petroleum title. For example, if a company is granted an exploration permit for five years, the term of the agreement can't exceed the expiry date of the permit.

If you're the occupier

If you're the occupier and not the owner of the land, you may need to negotiate the agreement.

An occupier is a holder of a:

  • lease registered over a freehold land title or
  • sublease or underlease registered over a Crown or pastoral lease.

The petroleum company must notify the landowner when it:

  • begins negotiations with you
  • reaches a land access agreement with you or
  • varies an agreement that exists between you and the petroleum company.

You should get professional advice to help with your negotiations before signing a land access agreement.

Negotiating an agreement is complex and requires a good understanding of legal, financial and agricultural matters including:

  • resource industry law and regulation
  • land valuation
  • natural resource economics
  • accounting.

You should set up your own advisory team with the relevant skills and experience to represent your interests effectively.

Types of advisors and how they can help you

Types of professional advisors that you may want to engage include:

  • a certified practising valuer - choose someone with experience in petroleum and gas legislation to help you negotiate compensation.
  • an accountant - to provide taxation and accounting advice relevant to your circumstances when negotiating or claiming compensation.
  • an agronomist - to assess your soil before and after a petroleum company carries out activities to measure the baseline impacts. They can help to quantify changes in yield, if any, resulting from activities.

Outcome

Read below to find out what steps you need to take if you reach an agreement or if you can't reach an agreement.

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If you reach an agreement, the company will apply to the Minister for Mining and Industry to approve it.

You are legally required to meet the terms and conditions of the approved agreement.

It is an offence under the Petroleum Act 1984 to interfere with petroleum activities that have approval.

Access agreement register

Once the minister approves the agreement, it will be recorded in the access agreement register.

The register is available to view by the general public.

A person can inspect, get a certified copy or a certificate of a land access agreement from the register. They can't inspect or get a copy of the actual agreement.

They can access the following information:

  • details of the parties
  • information about the petroleum interest held by the interest holder
  • a description of the land to which the agreement applies
  • term of the agreement
  • date the agreement was:
    • approved by the Minister for Mining and Industry
    • determined by the NTCAT.

Request payment for professional advisor costs

A petroleum company must pay reasonable costs for professional services that you necessarily use to reach an agreement.

This might also include costs if the matter goes to the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT).

How to request payment

You will need to request payment of your costs in writing and provide details or evidence of what you are claiming.

The company then has 30 days from when you submitted your request to pay, unless it disputes those costs.

Before you incur any costs, you should let the company know what type of professional services you will need and what the fees might be.

You may be personally liable for costs if they are not considered reasonable or have been unnecessarily incurred.

If you negotiate with a petroleum company in good faith for more than 60 days but can't reach an agreement, the matter may progress to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process.

An ADR process is another way for you and the petroleum company to reach an agreement without having to go through the NTCAT.

It may include:

  • mediation
  • conciliation
  • case appraisal.

It cannot be a binding process such as arbitration.

The petroleum company must provide you with a copy of a draft land access agreement. It will also pay the costs of the ADR convenor.

Request payment for ADR costs

If you claim for costs incurred during the ADR process, you must:

  • request payment in writing and
  • provide details and evidence of the costs you are claiming.

When to apply to the NTCAT

If you can't reach an agreement with the petroleum company through the ADR process, the petroleum company can apply to the NTCAT. It will make a decision and set out an agreement.

This agreement will be legally binding. Both parties must comply with the provisions for the term of the agreement.

It may be possible to challenge a decision made by the NTCAT. To find out more, go to the NTCAT website.


Last updated: 08 July 2021

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