WHAT is an AGRICULTURAL IMPACT STATEMENT?
 

An Agricultural Impact Statement is a risk-based assessment of the impact of a proposed mining or petroleum development on agricultural land, water and farming businesses. An Agricultural Impact Statement is required at both the exploration and the production stages before a mineral or petroleum project is able to be approved by the NSW Government. This section overviews Agricultural Impact Statement requirements.

What is an Agricultural Impact Statement?
 

An Agricultural Impact Statement is a risk-based assessment of the impact of a proposed mining or petroleum development on agricultural land, water and farming resources.

 

The Agricultural Impact Statement also outlines what measures can be taken to minimise any predicted impacts.  

 

An Agricultural Impact Statement is required at both the exploration and the production stages before a mining or petroleum project can be approved by the NSW Government.

 
Agricultural Impact Statements for Mineral or Petroleum Exploration
 

When is an Agricultural Impact Statement required for Exploration Activities?

An AIS is required for exploration activities that are subject to further approval under the Mining Act 1992 or Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, that require submission of a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) for assessment under part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and that may impact on agricultural resources or industries. These exploration activities are defined in the conditions of exploration authorities/titles.

 

What does an Agricultural Impact Statement for exploration cover?

The information required for an AIS for exploration activities reflects the potential risk and impacts of that activity on agricultural resources or industries. There are two levels of exploration AISs, which one is used is determined by the impacts of the exploration project on the quality of the land.

 

A Level 1 exploration AIS is a simplified and targeted consideration of the key issues and potential impacts of an exploration activity.

 

A Level 1 AIS must address the following issues:

 

  • describe the nature, location, intensity and duration of the proposed exploration activity and include a map of the exploration area.

  • describe the nature and location of agricultural resources or industries with the potential to be impacted by the proposed exploration activity.

  • identify and describe the nature, duration and consequence of any potential impacts on agricultural resources or industries.

  • outline how and when any disturbance resulting from the exploration activity will be rehabilitated.

  • location of the project to sensitive agricultural activities, sensitive agricultural activities may include:

    • intensive plant agriculture such as orchards and vineyards,

    • intensive livestock agriculture located with 1km of exploration activities;

    • breeding paddocks (e.g. lambing paddocks) located within 300m of exploration activities

  • agricultural biosecurity, exploration activities should consider enterprise specific industry biosecurity plans (e.g. viticulture, cotton, equine, grains, feedlots, poultry industries).

  • accounting for the use of water if more than 3 ML of water will be taken per year (as a result of cumulative exploration activities within the exploration authority/title area).

 

The Level 2 exploration AIS requires some similar information to the Level 1 AIS, but a more comprehensive and detailed examination of risks must be undertaken.

 

A Level 2 AIS is required for activities located on or within 2km’s of strategic agricultural land (SAL) or on land and soil capability (LSC) classes 1-3. LSC reflects the physical capacity of the land to sustain a range of land uses and management practices without degradation to soil, land, air and water resources and is a component of  biophysical strategic agricultural land mapping (BSAL).

 

Level 2 exploration AIS are expected to examine and address the points listed below in detail:  

 

  • the nature, location, intensity and duration of the proposed exploration activity;

  • the nature and location of agricultural resources or industries that may be potentially impacted by the proposed exploration activity;

  • the nature, duration, consequences and related risks of any potential impacts (positive or negative, including but not limited to and where relevant, weeds, dust, noise, vibration, traffic conditions and socio-economic impacts) on the agricultural resources or industries described above;

  • the mitigation measures (including agricultural biosecurity measures) that will be implemented to reduce or remove the potential impacts identified above; and

  • how and when any disturbance resulting from the exploration activity will be rehabilitated.

 

In addition a level 2 AIS needs to specifically address the following, detailed explanations of the requirements are in the Guideline for Agricultural Impact Statements at the Exploration Stage:

 

  • strategic agricultural land;

  • sensitive agricultural activities;

  • agricultural biosecurity;

  • accounting for the take of water; and

  • consultation.

     

For more information on the Guideline for Agricultural Impact Statements at the Exploration Stage see the Guideline for Agricultural Impact Statements at the Exploration Stage at:

 Guideline for Agricultural Impact Statements at the Exploration Stage

 

Agricultural Impact Statement for State Significant Development (SSD)
 
When is an Agricultural Impact Statement required for SSD?

All new State SSD applications for mining and petroleum (including coal seam gas) projects (as well as applications for associated State Significant Infrastructure such as pipelines) with the potential to affect agricultural resources or industries are required to submit an AIS as part of the EIS under part 4 of the EP&A Act. This applies whether the proposal is located on Strategic Agricultural Land or not.

 

What does an Agricultural Impact Statement for SSD cover? 

An Agricultural Impact Statement must include:

 

  • information about the site and region (including agricultural resources, production and businesses)   

  • an assessment of impacts (including on agricultural resources or industries, water and socio-economic impacts)

  • detail of mitigation measures (including for agricultural resources, lands, enterprises and for local and regional infrastructure), and

  • information on consultation in developing the statement (with adjoining land-users and Government Departments)  

 

Information relating to the site and region

Information relating to the site and region of the exploration proposal must be identified. A baseline assessment of agricultural resources and current agricultural enterprises must also be provided.

 

This will require:

 

  • maps of soils, slopes, land characteristics;

  • water characteristics such as availability and quality; and

  • relevant history of agricultural enterprises.

 

Identification of the agricultural resources and current agricultural enterprises in the project area will include:

 

  • any Strategic Agricultural Land or land within 2km of Strategic Agricultural Land

  • the location and area of land to be removed from agricultural production during the project and the amount of time this land will be removed from agricultural production

  • the location and area of land that will be or will not be returned to agricultural production after the project, and

  • any biodiversity offsets or any agricultural activities that will be undertaken in the mining buffer zone.

 

Specific information about the characteristics of the region will include:

 

  • soil characteristics (including depth and soil type)

  • Water resources and other water user’s extraction locations

  • topography and slope

  • key agricultural support infrastructure such as processing facilities, roads or railways

  • location of agricultural industries

  • type of agricultural industries, and

  • climatic conditions.

 

Specific information about agricultural enterprises in the region will include details of commodities that are produced by all the agricultural enterprises near the project area.

 

Assessment of impacts

Generally three main impacts of an exploration project will be assessed:

 

  • impacts on agricultural resources or industries;

  • impacts on water, including any physical movement of water away from agriculture; and

  • socio-economic impacts.

 

Impacts on Agricultural land and industries that will be assessed include: 

 

  • impacts on agricultural resources

  • impacts on agricultural productivity, including from any impacts on water quality or quantity

  • uncertainties associated with the predicted impacts and mitigation measures

  • risks such as spreading of weeds, biosecurity, subsidence, dust, noise, vibration and changed traffic conditions, and

  • impacts on farm productivity and land values, for the whole region.

 

If the project site is within 2 km of mapped Strategic Agricultural Land, the Agricultural Impact Statement must address the criteria that would need to be addressed during the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Process, including:

 

  • surface area disturbance, subsidence and soils

  • salinity, soil pH and groundwater

  • access to agricultural resources and infrastructure, and

  • agricultural scenic and landscape values 

For more information on the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Process see the page:

What Happens at the Mining and Petroleum Gateway Process Stage?

 

Impacts on water including any physical movement of water away from agricultural uses needs to be addressed in the Agricultural Impact Statement.

 

The amount of water that will be required needs to be identified and fully accounted for.

 

Any impacts on aquifers and groundwater will need to be assessed against the minimal impact considerations in the Aquifer Interference Policy.  

For more information on assessing water impacts and the Aquifer Interference Policy see the page:

What is the Aquifer Interference Policy?

 

Social and economic impacts that will have to be considered in the Agricultural Impact Statement include:

 

  • impacts on agricultural support services and value-adding industries 

  • impacts on employment at a local and regional level, and

  • impacts on visual amenity and landscape values that may affect local tourist enterprises.

 

Mitigation measures and rehabilitation 

The Agricultural Impact Statement should cover any mitigation strategies that could be used to minimise the impact of the mining or petroleum proposal on agricultural resources, enterprises and infrastructure. This should be detailed at both a regional and local level. 

 

Mitigation strategies and information that should be detailed include:

 

  • project design review and alternatives

  • monitoring programs to assess predicted impacts  

  • trigger points and response plans where mining operations will cease, be modified or remedial actions will begin, and

  • capacity for rehabilitation.

 

Consultation

Consultation strategies with stakeholders will need to be included in the Agricultural Impact Statement.

 

Consultation should be conducted with impacted landholders, community groups and relevant government agencies. 

 

At the exploration stage, community consultation requirements are required as conditions of exploration licences.

 

The Agricultural Impact Statement should include details of:

 

  • any consultation already undertaken and the outcomes of that consultation, and

  • plans for future consultation.

 

Who prepares the Agricultural Impact Statement?

An Agricultural Impact Statement is prepared by the proponent of the mining or petroleum development. Generally, consultants are engaged to prepare the Agricultural Impact Statement.

 

Who assesses the Agricultural Impact Statement?

The Agricultural Impact Statement will be assessed by an approval authority. The approval authority will differ depending on the type of development proposed and will be the Minister for Planning, or a Planning Assessment Commission, in consultation with the Strategy and Policy Unit of the Department of Primary Industries.

 

Some of the matters that will be determined through this assessment include:

 

  • the value of the agricultural resources and associated enterprises to be impacted;

  • the impact of the project on agricultural resources and enterprises that will be impacted;

  • whether the impacts are unacceptable, and

  • whether these impacts should be avoided.

 

NSW Department of Primary Industries will make submissions which will be placed on the approval authority’s website.

 

If the project is located on or within 2km of mapped Strategic Agricultural Land, the proponent will have to demonstrate the project will not have significant or unacceptable detrimental impacts to agriculture.

 

Where will I find Agricultural Impact Statements that have been produced and approved?
 

To find Agricultural Impact Statements that have been listed, go to:

List of Agricultural Impact Statements

 

Type ‘Agricultural Impact Statement‘ into the box labelled ‘Document Name’ and click search.

When can I have my say in relation to an Agricultural Impact Statement?
 

Agricultural Impact Statements for exploration are not placed on public exhibition for public comment.

 

However, if the Agricultural Impact Statement forms part of an Environmental Impact Statement for a mining or petroleum proposal you will have the opportunity to make a submission when the Environmental Impact Statement is placed on public exhibition.

 

For more information on having your say on an Environmental Impact Statement see:

How can I have my say?

 

 

[i] State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011 (NSW) sch 3 cl 5.

[ii] Ibid sch 3 c l2.

[iii] Ibid sch 3 cl 3.

 

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