Draft plan shows priority agricultural areas

DARLING Downs residents will today be able to see what land will be protected for farming as the State Government releases its land use map for the resource-rich region.

The draft Darling Downs Regional Plan is an initial blueprint for what land will be protected for agriculture as well as land ear-marked for future infrastructure and community expansion.

However, resource companies will still have a chance to explore land dubbed "priority agricultural areas".

The draft plan shows where there is priority agricultural area there is stricter criteria for mining companies to meet than in the rest of the region.

The criteria includes no material loss of land, no threat to continued agricultural land use and no material impact on overland flow and aquifers.

But resource activity lasting less than 12 months will not have to meet the new criteria.

The former Labor Government's strategic cropping land legislation will be amended to put the Darling Downs Regional Plan into effect.

For the first time areas south of Warwick, including the fruit-growing region around Stanthorpe will be declared priority agricultural areas.

From the border near Stanthorpe, north to Chinchilla and west to Toowoomba has also been classified as priority agricultural land.

The draft Darling Downs Regional Plan will also include buffers protecting towns from mining.

But councils can decide to expand or minimise the buffers in their town plans, which must be justified to the State Government approval.

Deputy Premier and State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Jeff Seeney said the draft plan sought to address conflicts between agriculture and mining.

"It protects the region's priority agricultural land uses by defining the key criteria that will need to be met in order for agriculture and resources development to successfully co-exist within mapped priority agricultural areas," he said.

The draft regional plan will go out for consultation before a final regional plan is released.

Mr Seeney said the plan provided certainty for the future of towns by mapping priority living areas and identifying infrastructure opportunities.

"This specific land-use mapping will improve certainty for communities and business in a region that has experienced significant change following growth in the mining and gas industry sectors," he said.

The draft plan can be viewed at www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/darling-downs.

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