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Team Members

Leanne O’Neill

Partner
Leanne provides advice to developers, resources companies, government and agribusiness clients in relation to land access and use, planning and environment matters.

As a partner in Cooper Grace Ward’s property, planning and environment team, Leanne advises on regulatory compliance in all aspects of land management and use across three key industries: mining and resources, property development and major infrastructure, and agribusiness. She acts for developers, mining and resources companies and agribusinesses, and continues to advise the Queensland Government on a range of matters, including legislative reform.

Leanne brings more than 20 years’ experience, including nine years as a solicitor representing the State of Queensland in negotiations and litigation. She held several senior legal roles in the Queensland Government.

Leanne is uniquely placed to advise clients as she was involved in much of the development of the policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks governing land use in Queensland.

Leanne provides specialist legal support on mining and resources regulatory obligations, development approvals, compulsory acquisition, valuation, native title, cultural heritage, environmental offsets, carbon sequestration, water, vegetation, livestock and seed stock management, and biosecurity compliance.

She assists clients to navigate the complex regulatory compliance regimes governing land access, as well as preparing contracts to give effect to commercial land uses and tenure management.

In addition to front-end work, Leanne also has extensive litigation experience as instructing solicitor in the Planning and Environment Court, Land Court, Supreme Court, Federal Court and National Native Title Tribunal.

  • Bachelor of Laws – University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours) – University of Queensland
  • Graduate Diploma of Professional Legal Education and Training – University of Queensland
  • Solicitor – Supreme Court of Queensland, High Court of Australia
  • Committee Member –Queensland Law Society Mining and Resources Law Committee
  • Former Committee Member – UDIA Queensland Planning & Environment Committee
  • Member –Queensland Environmental Law Association
  • Leading Lawyer in Government Practice – Best Lawyers (every year since 2019)
  • Recognised – Australasian Lawyer’s Elite Women 2022 and 2023
  • Finalist – Lawyers Weekly Partner of the Year Awards (Planning and Environment) 2022
  • Finalist – Lawyers Weekly Partner of the Year Awards (New Partner of the Year) 2021

Petroleum and resources

  • Advising the State of Queensland (while with government and since working with Cooper Grace Ward) regarding legislative reform for the mining, petroleum and geothermal sectors.
  • Representing and advising the State of Queensland and mining companies regarding regulatory compliance, appeals and objections to grant of mining and petroleum tenements.
  • Advising on regulatory compliance (including under the Planning frameworks) for associated development such as refineries, processing infrastructure and mining camps.
  • Advising on regulatory compliance and development of quarries under the Planning frameworks.

Compulsory acquisitions and valuations

  • Representing landowners and other interested parties on compulsory acquisitions, including process issues.
  • Negotiating compensation agreements on behalf of landholders with resuming authorities for significant and minor public infrastructure.
  • Providing advice and representation on objections and appeals.
  • Representing the State in over 448 commercial valuation appeals in the Land Court under the Valuation of Land Act 1944 (Qld).
  • Advising the State of Queensland and private clients in relation to objections to statutory valuations.

Planning and environment

  • Responsible for the coordination and management of over 100 planning and environment appeals to which the State was a party in the Planning and Environment Court, and over 20 planning appeals for private clients.
  • Advising on and assisting in the delivery of major projects and infrastructure, including renewable energy developments, quarries, dams, road networks, town centres and large residential subdivisions across a broad range of legislation at a council, xtate and Federal level.
  • Management of 20 regulatory compliance appeals and prosecutions in the Land Court and Magistrates Court for vegetation and water offences.
  • Advising and representing clients in relation to show cause notices and other compliance matters, including in the Planning and Environment Court under the:
    • Sustainable Planning Act 2009 and Planning Act 2016
    • vegetation management legislative regimes including the Vegetation Management Act 1999, the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and federal and local government laws
    • Environmental Protection Act 1994 (enforcement proceedings and show cause notices, environmental authorities and permits required to undertake certain activities)
    • the Building Act 1975 (both residential and commercial), including in relation to certificates of classification.

Agribusiness land management and use

  • Specialising in biosecurity management and risk mitigation.
  • Negotiating agreements for diversification of income streams and land use including solar farms, agistment agreements, timber harvesting, water use, environmental offsets, carbon sequestration and quarries
  • Negotiating and drafting seed stock agreements for animals and plants
  • Providing advice and representation regarding water entitlements, allocations and licences and vegetation management including applications and appeals.
  • Advising on leasing and leasing disputes, especially where unique environmental and other issues arise, e.g marinas and laboratories.
  • Advising on management obligations on State land, pastoral leases and conservation land, including bush fire management obligations, conservation agreements and land use within waterways as specified by a range of legislation.
  • Advising on the Land Act 1994, including land tenure and use, pastoral holdings, wet leases and dry leases, conversion applications and disputes under leases under the Land Act.

Native title and cultural heritage

  • Negotiating and drafting cultural heritage agreements.
  • Advising government, developers and land owners on complying with native title requirements and on the impact of claims for determination of native title.
  • Representing the State of Queensland in the National Native Title Tribunal and landowners in the Federal Court.
  • Representing the State in Indigenous Land Use Agreement negotiations.
  • Advising on complex native title issues.
  • Advising in relation to native title implications in amending legislation.
  • Participating in a number of native title and cultural heritage advisory panels to the State of Queensland.

Presentations

  • 7th Annual Agribusiness Law Conference – Carbon Credit Farming: What Lies Ahead? (May 2023)
  • Legalwise Native Title Forum – Co-Existing Native Title Party Commercial Operations with Pastoral Leases after a Native Title Determination (June 2022)
  • Property Law Seminar QLD – The Diversification Dilemma: Managing risks associated with Environmental Offset and Carbon Projects for Agribusinesses (March 2022)
  • TEN webinar – Making Hay While the Sun Shines: Essential Terms for Solar and Wind Energy (January 2022)
  • CGW Webinar – ‘Related Persons’ liability under the Environmental Protection Act (Qld): Chain of Responsibility Provisions (March 2021)
  • QELA Regional Intensive – Are our Planning and Environmental Laws Stifling Regional Development? (October 2019).

Areas of Expertise

Publications

Igniting success through bushfire managements plans - why you should have one

A bushfire management plan may be viewed as optional for many landholders, but neglecting your fire management obligations may put you and your business at significant risk. Discover the crucial reasons why the implementation and adherence to a bushfire management plan are important to safeguard you and your business.

An effective regulatory framework for Queensland's hydrogen industry - Queensland Government issues consultation paper

The global demand for hydrogen is expected to nearly double between 2021 and 2030. According to the International Energy Agency’s 2022 World Energy Outlook, Australia is expected to become the second largest net-exporter of low emissions hydrogen by 2030 and the largest by 2050.

Report on Energy (Renewable Transformation and Jobs) Bill 2023 due soon

This article serves as a progress update on the Bill, with a refresher on its purposes and a summary of feedback from the consultation process.