Land access

On this page you will find information about private land access, including compensation for the right to occupy the land, and how the Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969 regulates petroleum pipelines in onshore Western Australia. Both petroleum and geothermal energy are regarded as strategic resources and in this regard Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 titles have a certain amount of priority over other land tenures.

Private land

Aerial view of a well pad with drilling rig, northern Perth Basin (courtesy ARC Energy Ltd)
Aerial view of a well pad with drilling rig, northern Perth Basin (courtesy ARC Energy Ltd)

The Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 defines private land as being:

  • any land alienated from the Crown for any estate of freehold
  • land held by any person on conditional purpose under the Land Administration Act 1997
  • any lease or concession with or without acquiring the fee simple.

Excluded from the last point of this definition are pastoral and grazing purpose or timber leases, as well as leases for the use and benefit of Aboriginals. The words ‘any lease or concession’ in the private land definition covers a wide variety of land usage and care should be taken in assessing the status of any land.

Mining titles and private land

Titles under the Mining Act 1978 (the Mining Act) are not regarded as private land under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967. However, special provision is made in the Act for conflict in operations between mining and petroleum and geothermal titles. These sorts of matters are reviewed by the Mining Warden and reported to the Minister for Mines and Petroleum. In determining the matter, the Minister must give due regard to the public interest, justice and equity.

Accessing private land

While access to private land by petroleum title holders cannot be denied, the holders must first obtain written consent and negotiate a compensation package, if any, with private land owners. Petroleum or geothermal energy title holders are not authorised to commence operations on private land until compensation, if any, is paid to the land owner and occupier or a compensation agreement has been reached. Get further information on Gaining access to private land (page 120).

Land access restrictions

Access to Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967  title holders is not permitted where:

  • private land is less than 2000 square metres
  • land has been used as a cemetery or burial place
  • land is within 150 metres of a cemetery, burial place, reservoir or any substantial improvement.

Owners or trustees of the land described above can agree to entry for the purposes of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 operations.  The agreement must be in writing. Find out more about how access to land can be denied to the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 title holder. (page 120).

Compensation negotiations with private land owners or occupiers

Operations cannot commence on private land unless a compensation agreement (if any) has been reached with the private property owners and occupiers. Land owners and occupiers are compensated for being deprived of possession of the land and any damages. Read more about compensation to be negotiated with private land owners or occupiers (page 120).

Compensation disagreements

If compensation cannot be agreed between Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 title holders and private land owners and occupiers, then either party may apply to the Magistrates Court* to fix the amount of compensation.

The time for taking any dispute to the Magistrates Court is prescribed in regulation two of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Regulations 1987 and is three months after the day on which notice was given to land owners or occupiers, of the intention to commence operations on the private land.

*The application is to be made to the Magistrates Court at the place nearest to where the land in question is situated.

Operations undertaken on private land without agreement

A breach of Section 20 does not specify a particular penalty. However, exploration for or recovery of petroleum or a geothermal energy resources cannot be undertaken except under and in accordance with Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967  titles. These titles require all provisions of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 to be observed. This means any title holders who conduct activities on private land without having reached agreement with land owners or occupiers can face illegal ‘mining’ provisions. For further information on Operations undertaken on private lnd without agreement (page 120).

Who is entitled to compensation?

The Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 provides for compensation to the private land owners and occupiers. Also entitled to compensation are adjoining land owners or occupiers who may have decreased access or be adversely affected by the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967  title holders’ operations.  Read more about who is entitled to compensation (page 121).

Compensation for pastoral and other specified lease holders

Pastoral, grazing and timber leases and leases for the use and benefit of Aboriginal inhabitants are not considered private land. However, there is still an entitlement to compensation for any damage to land improvements. Find out more about compensation for pastoral and other specified lease holders (page 121).

Private land under the Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969

The Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969 regulates the construction and operation of petroleum pipelines in onshore Western Australia. Licences to construct and operate petroleum pipelines are issued when a valid application is made and where the Minister for Mines and Petroleum is satisfied that it is in the public interest. Pipelines can be licensed to cross any type of land, including private land. Read more about Private land under the Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969 (page 121).

Pipelines over private land

According to the Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969, any land can be taken on behalf of the licensee in the same manner as land can be taken for a public work. Land or an easement can only be taken at the request of a pipeline licensee. Read more about how Private land can be taken to enable a pipeline over that land (page 121).

Land owners’ compensation

If land can be taken for a public work, Land Administration Act 1997 provisions apply. In brief, those provisions involve a notice of intention to take the land, which can be objected to by land owners. Any objection cannot relate to the amount of compensation. Find out more about compensation payable to the land owner for land taken (page 121).

Proposed pipeline notifications to land owners

Where a pipeline route is being considered, entry onto the land will most likely be necessary. Under the Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969, the Minister for Mines and Petroleum can authorise entry onto any land, for carrying out surveys and preliminary investigations. Reasonable notice must be given to land owners and occupiers. For further information on how the land owner is to be notified of the proposed pipeline (page 122).

Related Information

Information regarding the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), WA Farmers Federation, Vegetables WA and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA land access agreement developed to streamline negotiations between oil and gas companies and farmers can be found on the APPEA website.

Frequently asked questions: a fact sheet on land access for mineral and petroleum exploration.