Landowners' rights, fracking and Western Australian law

Under Western Australian law, landowners cannot prevent gas fracking occurring on their land. Fracking companies are also permitted to frack in nature reserves and other areas of our conservation estate.

Fracking companies can go where they want, pay little compensation, pollute people's water, and then leave the state to clean up the mess. Petroleum companies get special treatment - and leave the rest of us to pay the price.

Shale gas is methane - also called natural gas.

Natural gas is generally considered to be a form of petroleum production and is governed by the Petroleum Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 (WA) (PGER Act).

Importantly, the PGER Act sets out an entirely separate tenement regime for petroleum exploration and production than that used for coal mining or the mining of other subsurface minerals under the Mining Act 1978 (WA). Petroleum companies get special treatment.

The PGER Act provides limited rights to farmers and private land owners.  Under the PGER Act:

  • The Minister for Mines and Petroleum may legally grant exploration, retention and development titles over ‘private land’;

  • It is not a requirement that landowners be notified or consulted in the event a gas exploration title is granted over their land;

  • In many circumstances, landowners have no rights of objection to exploration or development of unconventional gas resources on  their ‘private land’;

  • Petroleum exploration and development companies have fairly broad powers in terms of accessing petroleum resources on ‘private land’; and

  • Upon receiving formal notice from an exploration company, landowners have three months in which to reach a compensation agreement, or the matter will go to the Magistrate’s Court for determination.

The general overarching principle is that ‘private land’ is open for shale gas mining.

For more information on relevant petroleum legislation and for legal advice, contact the Environmental Defenders Office.