With the publication of new policy and advice, the Western Australian Government is giving assurance and clarity to large-scale hydrogen proponents wishing to access or use Crown land.
At the Australian Hydrogen Conference (West) 2022, Minister of the Hydrogen Industry Alannah MacTiernan presented the policies and instructions to representatives of the industry.
The WA Government predicts that access to Crown land will increase as the state’s renewable hydrogen industry develops further.
The existing land tenure over the proposed site, the underlying interest holders of the land, including native title rights and interests, the various stakeholders with an interest in the site, and the legal framework for gaining short- and long-term access to the site are all things that project proponents of large-scale hydrogen projects need to take into account when developing a proposal.
The WA Government prefers that where many project proponents have interests in the same tract of Crown land, those project proponents and any existing interest holders coexist. This preference is outlined in the Guidance for Land Tenure for Large-Scale Renewable Hydrogen Projects.
Coexistence might involve allowing successive usage of the same land or sharing it at the same time. Coexistence agreements shall be reached through conversations conducted in good faith and using all reasonable efforts, and they will be founded on the emergence of ongoing working partnerships.
The preferable, prompt, and open procedure for handling circumstances where negotiations do not result in a co-existence agreement between new competing projects planned for the same area of land is laid forth in the Policy for Consideration of Highest and Best Use.
A set of criteria laid out in the policy will be applied to determine whether a proposal will make the highest and best use possible of the relevant Crown land.
The documents also offer helpful advice for proponents of renewable hydrogen who are looking for early access to the Crown property to finish on-site geotechnical and feasibility investigations.
Exclusive S91 licenses will be possible in recognition of the costs associated with project development.
The guidance permits a maximum area for the exclusivity of 12,000 square kilometers, but with flexibility if a justifiable reason is provided. The guidance also permits a maximum period for exclusive licenses of two years plus a two-year extension when considering granting a single proponent license for access to investigations (to the exclusion of other hydrogen proponents only).
The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety; the Department of Planning, Lands, and Heritage; and the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation all provided input during the development of the policy and guidelines, which were overseen by the WA Renewable Hydrogen Ministerial Taskforce. During the writing process, the Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Council was also consulted.
You can access the policy and instructions at https://www.wa.gov.au.